Heart Rate Monitors
Heart rate monitors are designed to track the intensity of your heart rate during exercise, and give an accurate of how many calories you're burning.The theory is that there is a 'cardio zone' - an optimum intensity of exercise that maximises your calorie burning potential.
Many gyms have heart rate monitors inbuilt into their cardiovascular machines that are activated by the pulse rate in your hands.They are designed to guide you in how hard you should be going at a particular cardiovascular exercise.
What is my optimum heart rate during exercise?
The cardiovascular training zone is an excellent intensity to work at for fitness benefits and calorie burning. Use the equation of 220 minus your age to get an approximation of your maximum heart rate. From that, calculate your heart rate range for 65-75% of your maximum heart rate. The range you get is approximate but still useful as a general guide.
Does it matter if I go too high?
There is nothing wrong with working to a high heart rate/intensity as long as:
- you are medically fit and do not suffer with high blood pressure
- you are accustomed to regular exercise
- you have not recently been confirmed to have diabetes - inexperience with controlling blood sugar can be an issue!
- you ensure you gradually warm up to and cool down to avoid surprising the body and aid drainage of waste products
As long as you are healthy and the follow the guidelines above then it is fine to ignore the 'max heart rate' calculated by gym machines. Their estimation of your max heart rate may seem low and you may feel you could work harder.
What's the best intensity for burning calories?
The lower the intensity you work at, the greater reliance the body has on burning a greater proportion of body fat stores for energy. This doesn't mean that staying at a low intensity burns more fat! The lower intensity you work at the less calories you burn and calories are what make the real difference to losing body fat.
The higher the intensity of cardiovascular exercise, the more the body starts to utilise more of the energy stored in the muscles, which is called glycogen. This is where the idea of 'burning muscle' during high intensity workouts comes from - but it's not true! You use muscle stores but these are replenished post-workout and using greater amounts of these stores means you are burning more calories during the session and for the 24-hour period that follows.
In simple terms - the harder you work, the more benefits you'll reap!