Get in the Zone, The Fat Burn Zone

by: Ashton Smith

The prevalence of overweight persons and obesity in the United States has been rising exponentially in recent years. Health guidelines recommended dietary changes with increases in physical activity. With loss of body fat as the primary objective, exercise that optimizes metabolism of fat has been key. The fat burning zone seems to be everywhere in the fitness and weight loss press but what is it?

The zone is an ideal exercise intensity at which you burn a higher percentage of calories from fat. The zone is estimated to keep you heart rate in 60-70% of your maximal heart rate. This is considered low intensity work. However, at higher intensities, you burn a greater number of overall calories which is what matters when losing weight. During this intensity, you want to keep your heart rate somewhere close to 80-85% of your maximal heart rate.



  • Take 220 minus your current age= MHR (age predicted max heart rate)
  • Multiply your MHR by .80 to get the low end of your burning zone
  • Multiply your MHR by .85 to get the high end of your buruning zone


Low Intensity – 60-65% MHR High Intensity – 80-85% MHR
Total Calories expended per min. 4.86 6.86
Fat Calories expended per min. 2.43 2.7
Total Calories expended in 30 min. 146 206
Total Fat calories expended in 30 min. 73 82
Percentage of fat calories burned 50% 39.85%

This chart is the fat calories expended by a 130- pound woman:

In this example, with the topic were discussing, you want to look at total calories and total fat calories. The woman burns more of both when she is exercising at a higher intensity of 80-85%. However, some people may physically not be able to workout at a high intensity. That’s not to say just blow it off because low intensity wont benefit you. Low intensity exercise is a great way to build endurance and can along side interval workouts, which will burn calories and build endurance.


Where to start:


Day Workout/Intensity Length
Monday Beginner Interval Workout Up to 21 Minutes
Tuesday Low Intensity Walking 10-20 Minutes
Wednesday Rest
Thursday Cardio Endurance Workout Up to 35 Minutes
Friday Rest
Saturday Interval Training Level 2 Up to 25 Minutes
Sunday Low Intensity Walking 10-20 Minutes



Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Health Studies department