Cardio Exercise for Weight Loss: The Target Heart Rate
Losing weight isn’t as easy as simply cutting back calories and going for a walk around the block. Caloric minimums must be maintained and a certain amount of cardiovascular exertion must be performed to get modest results. So, today we are going to cover the basics of how to lose weight through cardio exercise.
One of the most important parts of losing weight through cardio exercise is keeping track of your heart rate. Far too many people just decide to start going for casual strolls in their neighborhood, but then wonder why they aren’t losing any weight. The problem is that they are unaware that there are different “zones” of training when it comes to cardio exercise. The two primary zones are called “weight loss” (sometimes also termed “fat burn”) and “cardio zone,” the zones of which are determined by tracking your heart rate and focusing on a target zone for your heart rate to be at. The weight loss zone is the lower zone of the two and for most individuals looking to lose weight and improve their general health, it is the zone you would want to be in.
Your target heart rate is determined by a percentage of what is termed your maximum heart rate, or MHR. You find this number with the basic calculation: 200 – your age = MHR. Once you have this number, then you want to try to get your heart rate to a percentage of that MHR to be within your “weight loss” zone. This is generally a minimum of 50% of your MHR, up to a maximum of 75% of your MHR. You can track your heart rate while exercising by pressing your pointer and middle fingers onto the main artery traveling through the wrist just below the thumb. Be sure to not use your thumb to measure your heart rate, as the pulse is strong enough in the thumb that it may cause your count to be off. Simply count the number of heart beats in 10 seconds, then multiply that number by six.
Now, one problem that many people have is not walking briskly enough to get to at least 50% of their MHR. If you are doing exercise at a HR lower than this, then you are going to end up burning mostly blood sugars, since the activity isn’t rigorous enough to cause your body to have to burn body fat. This will cause your weight loss results to be negligible. So, you want to make sure you’re at least reaching into that 50-60% of your MHR. If need be, pick up your pace, or if you’re walking/jogging outside, get some weights to carry in your hands while doing your cardio. There are any number of ways you can increase the intensity of your cardio exercise, but your pace and increased weight are the easiest.
On the other hand, you don’t want to over-exert yourself either. With cardio, more isn’t always necessarily better. If you are just getting into a routine and have been fairly sedentary prior to it, make sure to not push yourself past a maximum of 75% of your MHR for at least the first two weeks. Give your body time to adjust. A general rule of thumb is that for those first two weeks, you should be able to get out a full sentence without having to gasp for air. If you can’t do so, your cardio might be a bit too intense.
So, now you have a general idea of your minimum and maximum for your cardio exercise as far as your MHR. Other than that, here are some final tips to unsure your workout is safe and effective: be sure to keep well hydrated, gradually progress as time goes on, exercise at least 3-4 times per week, and be sure you are doing a routine that is acceptable by your healthcare professional. If at any point you feel dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous, these are all warning signs that you need to stop immediately and ease back on your regimen in the future. Just start slow and listen to your body as you ease your way into it and you’ll be well on your way to improving your health in no time!