Only 5% of the adult population of the United States exercises for the recommended 30 minutes each day. Recent studies show that exercising can increase a person’s lifespan by up to seven years. 

Heart rate plays a key factor in getting an effective workout. Keeping your heart rate too low won’t allow you to reap all of the health benefits. On the other end of the spectrum, sustaining your maximum heart rate can also cause damage. 

That’s why it’s so important to understand how your heart rate can affect your workout and what you can do to improve your fitness regimen. Read on to learn more about heart rate zones and what they mean for your workouts. 

What Is Heart Rate Training?

Every person has a resting heart rate and a maximum heart rate. This number will change depending on your fitness level and age, but it’s used to help you calculate the intensity of your workouts. 

A great workout program will provide you with workouts that have varying intensity, frequencies, and duration. It’s easy to measure duration and frequency. All you have to do is say, “I’m going to exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week”. 

Intensity is a bit harder to measure. Measuring heart rate is a personalized method to measuring intensity, so you know just how hard you’re working during each training session. 

Once you know the intensity level you want to reach, you can establish your target heart rate. This number will be the percentage of your maximum heart rate that you want to achieve.

To calculate your heart rate max, you can use an HR calculator or use the simplified formula: 220 – age. If you want an intense workout, you should aim for 80% of your HR max, whereas 30% is a light-intensity workout. 

The Different Heart Rate Zones

Once you’ve calculated your maximum heart rate, you can start to plan your intensity levels. There are five heart rate zones ranging from very light to very intense. Ideally, your workout plan should include time in each zone. 

Zone 1

Zone 1 is the lightest intensity and should be about 50-60% of your HR max. Walking or an easy bike ride are great examples of exercises that fall into this category. This zone is perfect for days when your body needs to recover. 

Zone 2

Aim for 60-70% of your maximum heart rate for this zone. The intensity should still be light, and you should feel like you can sustain the exercise for a longer period of time. 

This zone is all about improving your endurance and will help you train your body to work out for longer. Fast walks or a slow jog will keep your heart rate in zone 2. While zone 1 will keep you active, you’ll receive more health benefits from zone 2, such as increased cardiorespiratory fitness, fat loss, and increased blood flow. 

Zone 3

Zone 3 is considered moderate as far as intensity levels go. Aim for 70-80% of your heart rate max. One of the biggest benefits of training in this zone is the increased blood circulation to your muscles and heart. 

You will start to feel the burn at this intensity, but the hard work will pay off over time as your body becomes more efficient with its movements. 

Zone 4

Tough is the name of the game in zone 4, where your heart rate reaches 80-90% of its max.  Training at this level of intensity will help your body train itself to endure longer bouts of speed, use more carbohydrates as fuel, and withstand more lactic acid accumulation. 

To reap the most benefits, you should plan several workouts at this intensity or bouts of intense work multiple times into your plan. 

Zone 5

Zone 5 is the hardest and most short-lived of all the zones. You will be working at your absolute hardest, and your body won’t be able to maintain that level of intensity for long. 

Most exercisers will never need to use this zone, but competitive athletes and professionals incorporate high-intensity work into interval training to obtain peak performance during games and competitions.

How to Use HR Zones to Maximize Your Workouts

The key to maximizing your workouts is starting small and building upon a strong foundation. Whether you’re taking a boxing class or working out from home, it’s best to vary the intensity of each workout so your body has time to adapt, recover, and then push to the next level. 

Learn to listen to your body during your workouts. Know when you can keep pushing yourself and when you need to lighten up. Heart rate zones exist to help you gauge your intensity levels, but don’t get bogged down in the numbers. 

Use the zones as an extra layer of motivation to spur you on towards your goals and improved levels of fitness. 

How to Measure Heart Rate

No one wants to stop in the middle of a workout to measure their pulse, especially when they are in the zone and working up a great sweat. Luckily, there are several easy ways you can measure your heart rate while you’re working out. 

Lots of machines, like treadmills, have the ability to measure your heart rate. Although unless you hold on to the sensors constantly, they won’t be able to give you an immediate answer. 

Fitness watches and bands constantly monitor your heart rate and make it simple to see which zone you’re currently in. From there, you can ramp up the intensity or back off a bit, depending on your goal for that workout. 

Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) provide a generalized idea of where your intensity levels are. RPE is a great way for beginners to analyze how they’re feeling in relation to an exercise. 

Which Heart Rate Zone Do You Typically Workout In? 

Before you rush off to your next workout, take some time to plan ahead so you spend time in each of the heart rate zones. We hope this article will help you plan the most effective workout possible so you can maximize your training. 

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