Provided by Life Fitness Academy
Everyone knows that exercising is one of most powerful things you can do to improve your health. Regular cardiovascular exercise makes your heart stronger and more efficient, burns calories, lowers your blood pressure and helps keep you mentally sharp. However, it is important to exercise properly to get optimum results and help you achieve your goals. With today’s busy schedules, no one has time to waste on ineffective or inefficient exercise. Performing cardiovascular work at the correct level of intensity is essential. Exercise too hard and you risk injury and exhaustion or you may burn out and stop exercising altogether. On the other hand, if you don’t work out hard enough, you may not get the results you want. The best way to measure intensity is to watch your heart rate as you exercise.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, your predicted maximum heart rate can be estimated by subtracting your age from 220. This is the maximum number of times your heart can beat in a minute. Then multiply that number by .55 and by .9 to find the range that is your heart rate training zone. For example, if you are 35 years old, you have a predicted maximum heart rate of 185 beats per minute (220-35 = 185). Your lower limit is 102 beats per minute (.55 x 185), and your upper limit in the zone is 166 (.9 x 185).
“Working in the appropriate training zone makes it easier to exercise for a sufficient period of time and to continue with an effective exercise program for weight loss or cardiovascular fitness,” said James Skinner, Ph.D., Indiana University, and a member of the Life Fitness Academy Scientific and Medical Advisory Board.
If you have a very low level of fitness or haven’t exercised in a long time, 55 percent may be an effective place to begin your workouts, but a more conditioned person should work closer to 70 to 85 percent of his/her maximum heart rate. Depending on individual goals, most people who typically follow a regular exercise program should sustain at least 70 to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate for 20 to 60 minutes.
There are several ways to monitor your heart rate, including manually checking your pulse, and through using a variety of equipment, such as a heart rate monitor or hand sensors on fitness equipment. Checking your pulse can be done by using the first two fingers of one hand to apply light pressure at the carotid artery on the neck or the radial artery in the wrist. Count the beats for 10 seconds and multiply by six to get your heart rate for one minute. Heart rate monitors, such as those available from leading manufacturer Polar, include a chest strap and a wristwatch type receiver. The strap picks up your heart rate and the receiver displays the result, making it an accurate and convenient way to measure your heart rate.
Finally, leading equipment manufacturers such as Life Fitness typically offer features on their equipment that measure your heart rate as well. Some allow you to wear your heart rate monitoring strap and the machine’s console will display your heart rate (just like your wrist receiver would). Also, some equipment offers hand sensors that you can grip and the machine will measure your heart rate and transmit the reading to the console.
Once your heart rate is determined, usually it is up to you to adjust your workout to keep your heart rate in your target zone. If your heart rate is too low, you may need to jog or pedal faster, for instance. If it is too high, you may want to slow down a bit. Some equipment, however, makes adjustments for you. For example, many machines from Life Fitness, including treadmills, elliptical cross-trainers, stairclimbers and Lifecycle upright and recumbent exercise bikes offer workouts that measure your heart rate and automatically adjust the level of resistance to keep your heart rate at the chosen level. Because the machine does the work here, this lets you just get on and go, without constantly having to monitor your heart rate.
A heart that pumps more blood with each contraction is working efficiently, so it will not have to contract as often. This increased efficiency results in a lower resting heart rate, and a greater work capacity – which are signs of enhanced fitness.
“Cardiovascular exercise is an important part of any consistent exercise routine if you want to improve your overall health, fitness and longevity,” says Paul Thompson, M.D., director of the Preventive Cardiology Program at Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Conn. “Building a stronger heart is the best life insurance there is.”
When beginning any exercise program, it is important to first consult your physician. For assistance in developing a program that will help you exercise safely and ultimately achieve your fitness goals. Also check with your local fitness facilities for personal trainers who can help create a program for you and at your health club or when purchasing equipment for your home, look for cardiovascular equipment that monitors your heart rate and automatically adjusts resistance to keep you where you need to be.