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BLOG FITNESS, LIFESTYLE, HEALTH

October 25, 2012
Heart Rate Zones

Today's blog will attempt to shed some light on the heart rate zones that are the reason your Polar Heart Rate monitor seems to randomly beep at you during your cardio sessions. These watches have a pre programmed formula that calculates heart rate ranges based on age using a very basic formula-"220 beats minus age". For example, a 50 year old person has a predicated Max Heart Rate of 170 Beats Per Minute (bpm).  Incorporating this Max Heart Rate, most calculations for heart rate zones are based on the "Karvonen Method" using the following equation :


 Target Heart Rate = ((HRmax − HRrest) × %Intensity) + HRrest


Using this equation, that same 50 year old with a resting heart rate of 70 bpm would have an intensity range from 40-85% at heart rates between 110-155 bpm. If you were to randomly select a group of 50 year olds, it would be likely that these numbers would be far from the truth. These equations are great for estimating Heart Rate zones, which is exactly that- an estimation - mainly due to the Max Heart Rate estimation which has been shown to have a standard error of 7- 11 beats in some areas and in other areas an error as large as 30 beats! Variables such as size, age, fitness, and even gender have huge influences on max heart rate. The size of the heart along with the strength of the cardiac muscle play big roles in effecting heart rate. Imagine two individuals of the same age, one towering above 6 feet and another around 5 feet tall, it is likely the two have very different sized hearts, meaning their max heart rates would likely vary. 


This information is important in determining your ideal training zones and where you want to be exercising during your cardio workouts. I have had many female clients who comfortably workout  at 180 bpm, when their max heart rate should technically be at 175. If they were to take these values seriously, their fitness would be halted because they would not be pushing themselves hard enough. When first getting back into training, it is important to assess how you feel. The Rate of Perceived Exertion scale is great in gauging your intensity- your trainer can help you work with this scale. Keep in mind that as you gain fitness, your ability to exercise at higher heart rate zones will improve and you will likely have to re-assess your "zones." The effects of training on lowering your heart rate response is not just from a stronger heart- training also improves your muscle's ability to metabolize oxygen to perform work, your arterial/venous system also gets better at circulating blood and returning it to the heart along with  countless other changes. So train hard, and watch that heart rate slowly get lower at rest and notice how it stays lower with increasing intensity.

Although HR zones are not the best predictors of training intensities, they are necessary for individuals with limitations such as hypertension and other risk factors requiring modified intensities to ensure that exercise is performed within safe parameters. More accurate methods of assessing training zones include lactate threshold and VO2 max testing. These types of tests are highly specific and useful, but do not necessarily need to be performed to get a good workout!

If you do not have a Heart Monitor we have researced the best ones for you. {View Heart Monitors.}

Written by DR. MARK DEDOMENICO

 
 

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