Monday, January 4, 2010

Heart Rate Basics

Heart rate is a much discussed aspect of cardio vascular training, weight loss and fitness. I get a lot of questions about it as it pertains to fitness and weight loss. The questions covered here are some of the ones I hear frequently on the topic.

What is resting heart rate? Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you art at rest. As you become more fit, your resting heart rate will decrease. This is because a fit, healthy heart is strong and more efficient. Therefore it needs fewer beats to circulate the blood. A good number for resting hear rate would be in the 70's. Athletes others who are very fit can get it even lower.

What is max heart rate? Maximum heart rate is the maximum beats per minute your heart is capable of beating. You can go to your doctor and request a stress test. This is a test in which they hook you up to various monitors and have you get your heart rate up by doing something that will put load on your cardio vascular system such as walking on a treadmill. Speed and/or incline are increase until you cannot continue. When calculating this number for an exercise program use the rule of thumb calculation: 220 - (your age) = (your maximum heart rate)

What is target heart rate? Target heart rate is the range in which you want to get your beats per minute in order to increase cardio vascular fitness, burn calories and burn fat. For most fitness programs, target heart rate is the range between 60% and 80% of your max heart rate. Just multiply your maximum heart rate by .6 for the low end of the range and .8 for the high end.

What is interval training? Interval training is purposefully varying your heart rate during a cardio session by varying the intensity, and therefore the level of exertion, at which you work. A sample interval training workout might go something like: 5 minute warm-up, 2 minutes moderate intensity, 30 seconds high intensity, repeat moderate and high intensity interval combination 10 times, cool down for 5 to 10 minutes. There are dozens of possible variations on this but, that is the basic idea. Interval training is a great way to burn more calories and fat and increase cardio vascular fitness more quickly than steady state cardio.

What is steady state cardio? Steady state is just like it sounds. You go at a fairly even pace throughout the duration of your cardio session. Steady state training is a good way to burn fat and calories and good to throw into the mix for a well rounded cardio program.

What is the RPE scale? RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion. The RPE scale describes how you should be feeling at each level of exertion on the scale. The scale will either run from 6 to 20 or 0 to 10. Either way, the lower numbers represent less exertion with exertion levels increasing as the numbers increase on the scale. This is a method of determining your approximate heart rate by assessing, based on some subjective guidelines, how hard you are working. It can be a good method to know if you do not have a heart rate monitor.

Certainly there is plenty more to know about heart rate and cardio vascular fitness but, these are some of the basics to help get you started.

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