Hit Your Target Heart Rate for a Better Workout

Exercise makes your heart stronger and pump blood more efficiently. However, pushing yourself too much during exercise can have negative effects and not pushing yourself enough won’t get you the best benefits. Knowing your target heart rate can help you find the sweet spot to challenge your body in safe and effective way.

Gopinath Upamaka, MD, FACC, a cardiologist with ProMedica Physicians, says that aerobic exercises, such as walking and cycling, are better for your heart. “It allows your heart rate to increase gently and teaches your heart how to take an increasing demand as oxygen is used to fuel the muscles,” he explains.

Anaerobic exercises, such as weight lifting and sprinting, are beneficial for muscle strengthening, but deprive your muscles of oxygen while using sugar for energy. This is why these exercises are done at a higher intensity for a shorter amount of time. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercises are important for physical fitness. The American Heart Association recommends combining aerobic and anaerobic exercises into your fitness routine for health benefits.

When doing aerobic exercise, Dr. Upamaka recommends a steady increase in heart rate, using your target heart rate as a guide. “Using a target heart rate during aerobic exercise will help train your heart to warm up, perform the exercise and then go back to its normal state,” says Dr. Upamaka. “Aim to gently take your heart rate to about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.”

Your maximum heart rate is typically 220 minus your age, but can depend on your overall wellness, heart health and age.

A sample workout could include a five minute warm up, followed by 20-25 minutes at a faster pace that allows you to reach your target heart rate. Then, conclude the exercise with a 5-minute cool down period. “This process, by which you warm up, maintain a steady pace of heart rate and blood pressure and a cool down phase, is a classic way that you get a good cardiovascular workout.

What’s your target heart rate?

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