Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I’ve already written that LESS is MORE.  The key to successfully implementing the less is more principle is by cranking up the intensity. That’s because cardiovascular exercise relies on frequency, duration and intensity for effectiveness.  Both frequency and duration are about time, and none of us has enough time. So don’t waste it.  The only variable left is intensity.  So how do we increase the intensity?

Your heart rate is the best way to judge intensity:
The traditional formula (the latest formula takes into account a person’s resting heart rate and has results that vary slightly from the traditional formula presented here) used to calculate target heart rate zones is:
220 minus your age = 100% (maximum heart rate)

For example:  a 35 year old’s maximum heart rate is:
220 - 35 =  185.0

Many people who exercise regularly often workout at a moderate intensity level.  Moderate is defined as 60% - 70% of the maximum.  In our example the moderate range; 60% - 70% of the maximum 185.0 is 111 – 129.5.

A high intensity level falls between about 75 - 85% of your maximum heart rate.  At this level exercise feels challenging and leaves you too breathless to talk much.  For our 35 year old, this is a range of 139 – 157.

What I suggest here is a very simple method to increase your intensity, gradually over time:
Whatever piece of equipment you choose, do three minutes at a comfortable pace for you. If comfortable for you is 50% of the maximum, do 50%. If you are a conditioned fitness enthusiast, you most likely can be comfortable in a 60% – 70% range. After three minutes in your comfort zone increase your heart rate by 15% - 20%. Keep the increased intensity for one minute. Do that five times. Make sure after the last peak, you do a cool down for at least one minute. So if our 35 year old, in reasonably fit shape, was comfortable doing three minutes at 125 beats per minute, approximately 68% of his maximum, she would now increase either the speed or (if on a treadmill) the incline or both to get a heart rate of 151.

It is true that at a lower percentage of maximum heart rate (65%), a larger percentage of calories burned comes from fat than at a higher heart rate (75-85%). You will, however, burn more total calories at a higher heart rate.

Measuring your hear rate:
Take your heart rate after five minutes of your exercise session and take it again before you go into your cool down.

The simplest, least expensive way:  After five (5) minutes of exercise, two fingers by your wrist for 6 seconds.  Multiply by ten (10).  This is your heart rate. 
If you have the desire to be a little more exact, very good heart rate monitor and stopwatches are available for about $100.

important notice:
* If you have an irregular heart rhythm or you're taking medication that affects your heart rate, ask your doctor about the best way to measure your exercise intensity. 
You should be aware of the risks of exercise and should consult a physician and receive a thorough evaluation before starting any exercise program. People who are aware of or have been diagnosed with any condition(s) that restrict their physical activity should follow an exercise program outlined by a physician familiar with their condition.
* Do not work out if you are taking any medication that can cause drowsiness.
* Exercise to just below your limit; never above it.

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