Whenever you step onto a piece of cardio equipment you find yourself with a plethora of options and information. There’s a nice little chart with your age correlated with the heart rate you should be at for “fat burning” and “cardio training”, next you’ll notice buttons labeled with what kind of workout you want, cardio, hill training, intervals, fat burning, heart rate programs etc. I can see how this can be so confusing and potentially misleading for one to follow. This will briefly explain what you should be paying attention to.

Caucasian man and beautiful Asian woman running on treadmill or running machine in fitness gym.

The desired heart rate is 220-your age, multiplied by the capacity at which you work (60%-80% is on cardio equipment). This age-old formula is an easy solution to the question on how hard you should be working. 60% would be the “fat burning zone” and 80% would be your “cardio zone”. The American Heart Association and Health Canada want all individuals who are looking to maintain their heart health to complete 150 minutes per week of moderate to intense cardiovascular work, in other words between 60%-80% of your max heart rate.
But wait, what does the fat burning heart rate mean? If I go over that heart rate am I no longer burning fat? This is a myth. There is no magic formula to be purely burning fat tissue in our body, in order to reduce fat we need to have a negative caloric balance. Less calories in, more calories out. In fact, the lower your heart rate is the less calories you are burning. Therefore you can workout at a lower heart rate for a longer period of time to burn more calories, or you can workout at a higher heart rate for a shorter amount of time to derive the same results.

Man running on a treadmill in a gym

This brings us to the type of cardiovascular work you can do which seems to be the most contradictory area of working out these days. The two that contradict each other right now are HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and steady state cardio. HIIT targets specific muscle groups, works your anaerobic system and your aerobic system, makes you sweat and also gets your heart rate up. It sounds great in theory, but may not be the only option to follow, especially for individuals with injuries, heart conditions or anything else that could be made worse with vigorous activity. Using this as your sole cardiovascular training method could be setting yourself up for burn out and potential injury when used too frequently. As for steady state, again you are working a specific set of muscles, increasing your heart rate but working only aerobically. Typically you wont push yourself too hard, but you are spending a lot of time in repetitive motion, typically with impact, which can lead to imbalances or injury. That being said, the best way to incorporate cardio into your regime is to blend both HIIT and Steady State while adhering to the heart rate guidelines. For more information on implementing cardiovascular work into your routine or more about target heart rates and how it applies to you, feel free to get in touch and I’d be more then willing to help you get on track with your cardiovascular goals.

Yours in Good Health,
Jolene Kohne
General Manager – Gold’s Gym West Broadway