Different training and fitness goals require different levels of workout intensity. A good way to judge intensity is to keep track of your heart rate. Finding you target heart rate and exercising in that range can help you burn a greater percentage of "fat calories". The target heart rate range is often referred to as the "fat burning zone". Use the method below to calculate your heart rate zones.
Step 1) Finding Your Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
Your resting heart rate is the base rate at which your heart beats under no stress. Calculate your resting heart rate (RHR) first thing in the morning by placing your index and middle fingers either on your neck on the sides of your throat or on the inside of your wrist under your palm. Maneuver your fingers until you feel your pulse.
Once you feel your pulse count each pulse for a minute (or you can count for 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4). Some fitness professionals recommend taking the average of your RHR over three days for a more accurate result. To do this simply figure out your RHR each morning and add the three results then divide the total by three: (morning 1 + morning 2 + morning 3) / 3.
Step 2) Target Heart Rate Calculator
Enter your age and resting heart rate in the form below to calculate your target heart rate range.
Results: At What Intensity Should You Be Training?
Calculate your target heart rate above to fill in the table below.
Advantages of the Different Intensity Ranges
- Light Exercise: This level of exercise is great for avoiding injury while still becoming healthier. This range can easily be reached by a brisk walk. While this heart rate range can be used as a warm up or cool down, it can also lead to less body fat, a stronger heart and more lean muscle. Stick to this range if you have heart complications, are severely overweight or out of shape.
- Fat Burning Zone: A light jog will easily bring you into this range. While it doesn't burn more calories than more intense exercise it burns a higher percentage of calories from fat (versus calories burned from other energy sources). This zone is not as useful in terms of increasing endurance and overall cardiovascular function but it's inclusion into your routine can help shed extra weight. You will need to exercise longer at this range to burn the same amount of calories as the more intense ranges.
- Increased Endurance (Aerobic): At this intensity level your heart rate is at a level that will allow you to increase your lung capacity, increase your blood vessels and strengthen your heart. A decent paced running will bring you to this intensity level. While in this range you will be burning an equal proportion of fat and carbohydrates so proper nutrition is a must. Before training consistently at this heart rate range you should already be in shape and in good health. Increasing intensity and duration of any exercise too quickly can lead to injury.
- Power Training (Anaerobic): Running fast or other intense fitness activities will bring you into this anaerobic training zone. At this level of intensity your body is unable to deliver all the oxygen your muscles and body requires but your muscles continue to contract and operate without the needed oxygen. Training at this level is usually limited to a hour or less depending on your fitness level. This sort of range is best experienced during weight lifting, sprinting and other rapid bursts of exercise. Benefits include increased endurance, stronger muscles and less overall fatigue.
- Maximum Effort: Because this intensity level pushes the heart to its maximum rate, fitness activities at this level usually last only a few minutes (even in world-class athletes). Once your heart reaches its maximum rate it can not physically beat any faster. Training at this level can help increase the length of time at which you can function near your maximum heart rate. The benefits of training near your maximum heart rate are usually reserved for serious athletes looking to perform better at a particular sport. You can increase your overall endurance by going to this red-line about once a week.