How Hard Should I Work Out?
Knowing your exercise intensity is the difference between accomplishing your goals or just reading a magazine while you are on a treadmill. If you are trying to improve your fitness, you need to work a little harder than you normally do over a period of time.
We are all unique in this and we need to have a method of measuring our exercise intensity that suits each one of us. The fitness industry tries to fit everyone into the same category. Almost every major piece of fitness equipment has a heart range set according to age. It tells you that if you are 60 years old, then you should exercise at a certain heart rate depending on what you are trying to do.
Well, not every 60-year-old fits in the same mould. You and I know that! At 71 years old today I know I workout at rates far above where the ranges say I should be.
So, we need to know our own bodies a bit better. Check your own exercise intensity below and then get yourself a Heart Monitor or a Fitbit. You need something to measure your heart rate.
Here’s an example of checking your exercise intensity.
This is a very individual concept because there are no absolute rules. There is a popular theory called the ‘Maximum Heart Rate’ that is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. This number was originally produced through observations of only a few individuals and became commonly accepted as a guide mainly because it was reproduced on fitness equipment used in gyms. And people just believed it.
Various studies have produced results saying that 220 minus your age is the highest rate for most people. You then work at different levels of that rate, (75%, 80%, 90%) depending on your fitness level and the training effect you want.
In my case that would be 220 – 71 (today) = 149. The theory then tells me I should work out at 50%-90% of that rate, depending on my fitness level and my goals. Well, 80 percent of 149 is 120, and I have to tell you that I am often in the 145-150 area. But remember, I am quite fit and used to this level of exertion. I started out in this book saying you have to think for yourself and determine what is right for you…not for a bunch of other people.
It is now believed that the method above underestimates the maximum heart rate of older individuals and so another method has emerged. Its calculation is 208 bpm (beats per minute) – 70% of your age. In my case that would be 208-(.7 x 71) or 208 – 49 = 159 bpm. The suggestion is that would be my maximum heart rate. My target rate would be a percentage of that number,
50% of 159 = 79 bpm
60% 0f 149 = 95 bpm
70% of 159 = 111 bpm
80% of 159 = 127 bpm
90% of 159 = 143 bpm
If you are new to fitness, get some help determining your target heart rate. After I had open heart surgery I found I had to work out at rates far less than my usual rates. If you use the targeted heart rate and a heart monitor it will be beneficial in tracking how you do. I now wear a Fitbit and I combine that information with the Borg Scale below.
When I said earlier that we all need to think for ourselves when ‘experts’ tell us things, this is a good example.
I suggest you combine the targeted heart rate with the Borg Rate of Perceived Exertion (BPE). This scale is intended to help you interpret the degree of difficulty as you are working out. It is often seen as a scale of 1 to 20 but I like to simplify things and use a scale of 1 to 10.
Once you know your target heart rate, and you have identified your starting position for how fit you are, you can start moving forward with tools that let you measure your own progress. You can go for a short walk and when you are finished you can judge where it rates on the Borg scale above. If you are wearing a heart monitor, you can then equate the two.
For example; A brisk 15 minute walk feels like you’re working, a little effort but not real hard. You rate it as 4-5 on the Borg Scale and your heart rate on completion of the walk is 105. Think about how it felt, and remember that feeling and the corresponding heart rate.
So, you’re new to exercising. Let’s say your target heart rate is 50% of the maximal heart rate and you are 65 years old. Maximal Heart Rate 208-(.7 X 65) = 45 or 208-45=163 bpm. That is your maximum Heart Rate. At 50% of 163 your ‘Target Heart Rate’ is 81 bpm.
If the above example fits you, then you will need some time to build up the ability to exercise. Believe me it is worth the effort.
You will live better longer!
Now you know what a Target Heart Rate is and how to calculate yours!
You also know how measure your range of exertion.
The next step is to learn how to workout with and without equipment. You can be effective either way but it is more enjoyable to use both types of exercise. The greater the variety you use in your workouts, the more you will enjoy them.