Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Rethinking target heart rate

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images                 multiply the above numbers by 6 to get your target heart rate per minute


As you know, there’s an overabundance of health and fitness advice out there.  Sometimes, the  common-sense  and least sexy advice  is what can  best guide your workout    regimen. Determining your  target  heart rate is a good  example of that.  In the early days  of fitness training,  the formula  of subtracting your age  from 220,  multiplied by .75-.85,  would  bring you to your ideal heart  rate.  This is now known to be just a  rough estimate of your true  target  heart rate, and can vary  anywhere    from 10-20 beats per  minute.

First of all, you need to know  your  resting heart rate to  determine your  goal for an  intense workout.  Take  your resting heart rate first thing in the morning when you awaken, before you get out of bed. If you do this at least 3 days during a week, and take the average, it will be the most accurate. Put your index and middle finger at the base of your thumb, on the right side of your left wrist to feel for your pulse, then count for 15 seconds, multiply by 4, or  for 10 seconds, and multiply by 6. If your resting rate is below 60, then your target rate will be very different than if your resting heart rate is in the 80s. It’s important to take this measure when you are relaxed, and not in the  middle of the day, or when you’re thinking about all the tasks you need to accomplish. Average heart rates for adults vary from 60-90, but average in the 70-80s. If you are a trained athlete or you have a genetic predisposition toward a lower rate, then your heart rate may be in the 50s. Keep in mind that medication, especially beta-blockers, will lower your heart rate, and your emotional state also has a sizable effect .

Go to this article to learn more –

See this link for an accurate heart rate calculator: .

This heart rate calculator, in combination with the Record of Perceived Exertion, or RPE, is an excellent measure of your target heart rate, because it takes into account your subjective experience of your workout. This RPE scale was also found to be correlated highly with your target heart rate. Here’s the RPE scale, which was condensed from a 0-20 Borg scale of perceived exertion:

1 – Very, very light
2 – Light, very easy
3 – Easy, can converse very little effort
4 – Somewhat easy, you still talk fairly easily
5 – Starting to get challenging
6 – Challenging, conversing requires effort
7 – Increasingly difficult, possibly beginning to sweat
8 – Very difficult, conversing becoming almost impossible
9 – Very, very difficult, can’t speak
10 – All out, maximum effort, cannot sustain this level for more than 10-15 seconds

When you are doing interval training and trying to increase your endurance, shoot for  a level of between 5-8 for short sprints, and try not to drop below 3 for your resting and recovery periods.

Begin at lower levels of exertion, working at about 50% of your ability in the 2-4 range, then gradually ramp up your effort to the 5-8 range. Your heart rate should be in that 75-85% of your maximum range, so if you are 60, your range will be somewhere in the 120-136 range. Now combine that with your subjective sense of exertion. Can you talk while exercising?  Are you sweating?  How much muscle fatigue are you feeling?  These parameters differ greatly among individuals, with some people feeling muscle fatigue well before they feel breathless, and others feeling the opposite. What’s important to know is how YOU feel as you’re exercising, and be sure to heed any warning signs, such as faintness, dizziness or nausea. Shoot for pushing yourself to higher levels of exertion while staying within some semblance of your comfort (and I use this word loosely) zone.

One of the most common errors I see in training regimens, particularly as people age, is that they are not working to capacity, because of fear that they may overdo it. I see more people under-doing it, and not getting the benefit from all the time they put in.

Take a moment to ponder your exercise regimen. Are you getting all you should from it? Are you seeing improvement in your performance of daily tasks?  Are you free from chronic pain in your back and your joints, especially after stretching?  Do you know what to do for relief when you do feel muscle aches or pains?

It may be time to reassess and experience the many advantages of the cardio, brain, bone and muscle benefits you can derive from a workout that has the right intensity for you.

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