Many fitness walkers rely upon the pedometer as their primary piece of walking equipment/gear when attempting to measure and monitor the intensity of their exercise activity. Fewer used an equally important devise, the heart rate monitor.
What are they and what do they do?
Obviously, as their name would imply, they are a devise similar to the electrocardiograph at your physician’s office. A piece of gear that monitors your heart rate, measured in beats per minute, taken during your walking or other exercise routines. This provides you with a standard to measure the intensity level of your work out. More than simply a recording devise, a monitor can help you design and structure your exercise routine to maximize its’ efficiency, enabling you to get the most from the time you spend.
How do you use one?
The best way to use a heart monitor is in conjunction with your own personal “target heart rate zones”. A target heart rate zones start with establishing your “maximum heart rate” (MHR) which is a somewhat theoretical but useful measure of the fastest rate at which your heart can beat. I say its’ theoretical because it is based on math formulas, although there is a procedure for verification. The most commonly used formula is 220 minus your age. So if your 40 years old you MHR is 180 beats per minute. There are more precise formulas but I’ll save that for another post. Once you’ve determined you MHR, the zones are simply a percentage of that number. In our example a 50-60% zone would be 90 to 108 beats per minute (180X50%/60%). Training experts generally establish 5 target heat rate zones and associate them with specific exercise goals.
- 50-60% Zone – heart strengthens, you reduce your body fat and blood pressure. Overall health improves but not strength or endurance.
- 60-70% Zone – At this level your fat burning increases significantly strength and endurance begin to improve.
- 70-80% Zone – More body fat burning and increased strengthening of the heat and lungs.
- 80-90% Zone – Here you’re beginning to burn muscle since the heart can’t pump enough oxygen.
- 90-100% Zone – You don’t want to go there.
Most exercise routines focus on numbers 1,2,3 and don’t venture into the last two.
Again, in our example, Zone 1 would be walking at a pace that gets your heart rate into the 90 to 108 beats per minute range. Exercise walking at that rate would improve your overall health but wouldn’t do much for your endurance.
Developing a Heart Rate Based Exercise Routine
The idea here is to design a walking routine that varies its’ speed to increase or decrease your heart rate to help you quickly achieve your overall exercise objectives ie. lose weight, increase endurance, etc. For those who are interested in simply improving their overall health and those just starting out, Zone 1 should be the target. For anything more, a variation of 1, 2 and 3 would be appropriate. For example, a third of your total exercise time spent in each of the first three zones. Changing the zone allotment as your strength and endurance goes up or down. Note: During a routine it’s always best to break them into some sort of a warm-up, increase, max, warm-down configuration.
Once you’re established your target heart rate zone and programed them into your heart rate monitor, it will do the rest. Informing you when you’ve reached your target and how long you’ve maintained it.
There are a wide variety of monitors on the market with a wide array of features, at a wide array of prices. Have a good idea of what type of routine or goals you want to pursue and then match them the brand or model as best you can. Consumerresearch.com ranks the Timex T5G971 Unisex Sports Personal Heart Rate Monitor Watch and the Omron HR-100C Heart Rate Monitor as two of the best monitors on the market.
Monitoring your heart rate can give you the tool you need to maximize the effectiveness of you fitness walking activities. It helps you better plan your walking pace to get maximum effect for each minute your out on the road. Thereby helping you achieve your goals with less time and effort. Its’ a piece of walking equipment that gives you a real bang for the buck.