What are the heart rate zones?
There are two schools of thought: 5 zones or 3. Although NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) follows a 3 zone method (focusing on an upper and lower heart rate for each zone), it is easier to break it up into 5 different zones. The 5 zone approach is basically the same thing and easier to track.
The first step in order to benefit from these zones is to calculate your maximum heart rate. A lot of newer heart rate monitors ask these questions when you are setting them up too. *Keep in mind that there are a quite a few different ways people can calculate their heart rate*
The standard calculation according to the American Heart Association is:
220 – your age = Your Maximum Heart Rate
Zone 1 Healthy Heart Zone
50-60% of Max Heart Rate
This is most comfortable zone, reached by walking briskly. If you’re out of shape, or have heart problems, you’ll want to spend most of your training time here. It’s also the zone for warming up and cooling down before and after more vigorous zones.
Zone 2 The Temperate Zone
60-70% of Max Heart Rate
It’s easily reached by jogging slowly. While still a low level of effort, this zone starts training your body to increase the rate of fat release from the cells to the muscles for fuel. Some people call this the “fat burning zone” because up to 85 % of the total calories burned in this zone are fat calories, which is equally as important.
Fit and unfit people burn fat differently. The more fit you are, the more effectively you use fat to maintain a healthy weight. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve been exercising vigorously, but you’re not losing the weight you expected to. It could be that you’ve been working too hard and need to drop back to this zone and exercise longer. To burn more total calories you’ll need to exercise for more time in this zone.
Zone 3 The Aerobic Zone
70-80% of Max Heart Rate
In this zone — reached by running easily as an example — you improve your functional capacity. The number and size of your blood vessels actually increases, you step up your lung capacity and respiratory rate, and your heart increases in size and strength so you can exercise longer before becoming fatigued. You’re still metabolizing fats and carbohydrates at about a 50-50 rate which means both are burning at the same ratio.
Zone 4 The Anaerobic Threshold
80-90% of Max Heart Rate
This zone is reached by going hard — running faster. Here you get faster and fitter, increasing your heart rate as you cross from aerobic to anaerobic training. At this point, your heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to supply the exercising muscles fully, so they respond by continuing to contract anaerobically. This is where you “feel the burn.” You can stay in this zone for a limited amount of time, usually not more than an hour. That’s because muscles just cannot sustain working anaerobically (this means without sufficient oxygen) without fatiguing. The working muscles protect themselves from overwork by not being able to maintain the intensity level.
Zone 5 The Red Line Zone
90-100% of Max Heart Rate
This is the equivalent of running all out, and it is used mostly as an “interval” training regiment — exertion done only in short to intermediate-length bursts. Even world-class athletes can stay in this zone for only a few minutes at a time. It’s not a zone most people will select for exercise since working out here hurts and there is an increased potential for injury.
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