Exercise & Training,  Motivational

Are You Really Exercising? Ask Your Heart!

Target Heart RateThere is a fine line between exercise and increased activity. Someone can walk everyday and still not exercise enough to help them lose weight. Although increasing activity can improve your health, it is not as effective when it comes to weight loss.

What is the difference between exercise and activity?  

A good example for activity would be walking your dog or a taking a morning stroll. Exercise is typically more structured and purposeful. Good examples would be a power walk, jog or aerobics class.

For most people, your heart rate is probably the best indicator of aerobic exercise and caloric expenditure. In order to find out where you should exercise you need to figure out your maximum heart rate, which according to the American Heart Association is 220 minus your age. Then, multiply that number by 65% for a low intensity workout or 85% for a higher intensity workout.

Here is an example for a thirty year old:

polar RC3 heart rate monitor220 – 30 = 190BPM (beats per minute)
Heart rate for a low intensity workout would be 123.5BPM  (190 X .65)
Heart rate high intensity workout would be 161.5BPM  (190 X .85)

Tracking your heart rate can be pretty easy when using a treadmill. Most treadmills have a chart on the machine to tell you where you need to be, but what if you are out walking in your neighborhood? You can either buy a heart rate monitor (like this Polar RC3 heart rate monitor Steve uses), or you can get an estimate by counting your heart beat within a ten second span and multiplying it by six.

heart rateFor example, the same thirty year old would need to maintain a heart rate of 21 beats over a ten second span for a low intensity workout. For a higher intensity workout, the ideal heart rate would be 27 beats. Of course it is not as accurate as a heart rate monitor but it can give you an idea of where you are.

Although heart rate is normally the best indication of caloric expenditure, there are some exceptions. Some people’s resting heart rate can be slower than normal, a condition called Bradycardia, or it can be faster than normal, called Tachycardia. However, for the general population, the heart rate is the best way to monitor aerobic exercise and calories burned.

So, if you are not sure if you are exercising at the right pace, just ask your heart. It will tell on you in a jiffy!

Check out this awesome Heart Rate Calculator at AceFitness.org

heart rate calculator

Check out this handy dandy chart for a quick 10-second heart check!

Target Heart Rate Chart

Owner of Lift Vero and motivational "pfitness, pfood and pfaith" blogger in Vero Beach, Florida.


  • imarunner2012

    I used the calculator and for advanced my heart rate range was 148 – 163. I’m usually in the high 150 to 160 range. On my last long run my rate was in the mid 140’s for the first 5 miles or so. Not bad.
    I use my Garmin w/ heart rate monitor all the time.

  • chopstix2112

    great article….love your blogs (am new here)…i’m 51, male and during my interval workouts (on eliptical or bike or both) i get my hr up to between 160 and 170….have lost 27 lb over last 3.5 months with another 25ish to go …will go for a Dexa scan to ascertain real BF in jan/feb…slowing things down to 4-6 lbs/month ’til i lose the rest.
    …i was plateauing for a bit and your blog on counting your cals and being accountable
    really helped get me back on track …i also weigh myself each morning: the ultimate bullshit detector, as I call it: you can lie to yourself and to your friends but not to ‘the great wizard’ (scale).

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