Cardio 101: The Basics of Cardiovascular Exercise

Getting in the Zone

To help make the most of your cardio workout, you need to get in "the zone." This "zone" is your bull's-eye target you want to shoot for. Specifically, this is your target training heart rate zone (or "aerobic zone"), which is the most effective point for overall cardiovascular fitness. It is the ideal target heart rate -- the point where you are doing enough exercise but not overdoing it. So how do you know what your individual zone is?
Before you start calculating your target heart rate, it's a good idea to know what your resting heart rate is. This is the number of times your heart beats per minute while you are at rest. The best time to check this is in the morning after you've slept well and before you get out of bed. On average, the resting heart rate for most people is around 60 to 80 beats per minute.
Now it's time to determine your target training heart rate. This should be 50 percent to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, which is based on your age. Finding the maximum heart rate is easy -- simply take 220 and subtract your age.
For example, a 40-year-old person's maximum heart rate would be calculated as 220  40 = 180 beats per minute (bpm). The target training heart rate zone for this person would be calculated as follows:
50 percent level: 180 x 0.50 = 90 bpm
70 percent level: 180 x 0.70 = 126 bpm.
What does this all mean? For a 40-year-old person who is doing moderate-intensity physical activity, his or her heart rate should remain between 90 and 126 bpm during physical activity to be in the "target zone."
For those who may desire to do more vigorous physical activity, the target heart rate should be 70 percent to 85 percent of the maximum heart rate. To calculate this number, simply follow the same formula used earlier, except change the 50 percent and 70 percent to 70 percent and 85 percent.
Keep in mind that these are averages, and some people need to have higher or lower target heart rates. Also, some medications (like beta blockers) may affect your target heart rate.
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