When you exercise, are you working hard or hardly working? Exercising at the correct intensity can help you get the most out of your workout — making sure you are not pushing too hard or doing too little.
One of the obvious ways to measure exercise intensity is to determine how you feel during the activity — your perceived exertion. Your perceived exertion level may be different from how someone else feels doing the same exercise as it depends on the individual’s fitness level. Exercise intensity is also shown in your breathing, whether you’re sweating, and how tired your muscles feel.
Another way to gauge is to check your heart rate. There are two ways to do this; take your pulse on your wrist for 30 seconds and multiply by 2. The other way is to use an activity tracker that includes a heart rate monitor ie – fitness watch.
Have you ever wondered what intensity you are working at? Find out below, the 5 target heart rate zones:
- Zone 1: Very Light
50-60% of your max heart rate improves overall health & aids recovery – should focus on this zone for active rest days x 1 per week.
- Zone 2: Light
60-70% of your max heart rate improves basic endurance & fat burning – should focus on this zone for steady-state cardio 1-2 days per week.
- Zone 3: Moderate
70-80% of your max heart rate improves aerobic fitness, increases blood circulation to skeletal muscles and bones – should focus on this zone on hard workout days 3-4 days per week.
- Zone 4: Hard
80-90% of your max heart rate, increase max performance capacity, helps train body to use carbs for energy & to filter lactic acid more efficiently – should focus on this zone on hard workout days 3-4 days per week.
- Zone 5: Max
90-100% of your max heart rate – this zone is more for high-performance athletes to develops maximum performance and speed. It is ok to be in this heart rate zone for short periods of time during challenging workouts but not maintainable for a prolonged time.
How to find your target heart rate zone?
(220 – age = projected max HR x target HR zone)
Example – A 40-year-old individual intending to work on a moderate level of 70%.
(220 – 40 = 180 x 0.70 = 126 bpm)
The above individual will have to aim for 126 beats per minute to be working at a moderate pace. As mentioned before
Consider your reasons for exercising. Do you want to improve your fitness, lose weight, train for a competition or do a combination of these? Your answer will help determine the appropriate level of exercise intensity. Balance is still important. Overdoing it can increase your risk of soreness, injury, and burnout. Start at a light intensity if you’re new to exercising. Gradually build up to moderate or vigorous intensity.
Note that several types of medications, including some medications to lower blood pressure, can lower your maximum heart rate, and then lower your target heart rate zone. Ask your doctor if you need to use a lower target heart rate zone because of any of your medications or medical conditions. Interestingly, research shows that interval training, which includes short bouts (around 15 to 60 seconds) of higher intensity exercise alternated with longer rest time, is well tolerated. It’s even safe for those with heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This type of training is also very effective at increasing your cardiovascular fitness and promoting weight loss.
Be realistic and don’t push yourself too hard, too fast. Health and Fitness is a lifetime commitment, not a sprint to a finish line. Come and talk to one of the Absolute Balance Exercise Physiologist for further assistance.