Heart rate monitoring for fitness and weight loss

The heart is the most important muscle that we possess. Like any muscle, it has a correct work rate for any exercise goal that you choose. To exercise effectively, you need to know how hard it is working.

None of us have the time to waste on fitness programmes that are ineffective, lack flexibility, or don't meet our individual needs. Fortunately, the heart is the key to planning a highly efficient and personal fitness programme. Since your heart rate reflects the condition of your body, using your heart rate as a guide during exercise can enable you to achieve the maximum benefits from your workout.

What is the correct exercising pace for best results?

The rate at which your heart beats is a very good indicator of training intensity, and the perfect guide to your fitness level. You can select the heart rate that meets your objectives best from a total of five ranges determined on the basis of maximum heart rate (MHR). MHR is the number of beats per minute (bpm) in a situation where the rate would not increase any further, even if exercise intensity were increased. The rate that imposes the greatest expenditure of energy consumption from fat metabolism is 60-70% of the mean MHR. Exercises performed at this level induce the muscle cells to derive most of their energy from compounds stored in fat tissue. However, people wanting to lose weight or having recently started training are advised to start at a lower heart rate.

As exercise intensity increases, the muscles require energy to be more readily available. Consequently, they begin to make use of carbohydrates. When this happens the role of fats as an energy source decreases. Excessively strenuous physical activity is often followed by muscle soreness and an acute feeling of hunger; the latter is caused by exhaustion of your carbohydrate reserves. For these reasons the best weight loss results are obtained when exercising at 60-70% of your MHR.

How do I determine my maximum heart rate?

Before you can determine your optimal heart rate limits, you should know your own MHR. Ageing reduces maximum heart rate by approximately one beat per minute for every year from the age of 20. You can estimate MHR using the following formula:

Maximum heart rate = 220 minus age (in years)

This means that the MHR for a 40-year-old woman will be 220 - 40 = 180bpm.

How do I measure my heart rate?

Heart rate can be measured by palpating the artery on your neck or wrist. It is recommended that you calculate your heart rate (bpm) by counting the beats for 15 seconds and multiply the result by four. It should be noted that measuring the heart rate in this manner is not very accurate, as it requires the exerciser to stop the exercise. This method always produces a lower figure than that prevailing during the actual exercise.

Useful link: Assess your optimum heart rate for fat burning etc

Wireless electronic heart rate monitors offer a more reliable and easier way of measuring heart rate. You can read your heart rate directly from the display without having to adjust the pace of your activity. A heart rate monitor is comprised of two components: a chest belt and a wristwatch receiver. The elasticated chest belt has two electrodes which, when moistened, pick up the electrical signals produced by the heart. This works in a similar way to an electrocardiogram in a hospital and offers very accurate results. The chest belt then sends a signal to the wrist receiver. Your heart rate (in beats per minute) is then displayed on the screen of the receiver. Heart rate monitors provide a way of determining the right intensity of exercise. This means that whatever your exercise objectives are, by using a heart rate monitor you will be sure that you exercise at the right heart rate for optimum effect.

Courtesy of Fitness Professionals UK

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