Most people believe the harder you exercise the more fat you will burn but the truth is you burn fat more effectively while exercising at medium intensity. Medium intensity is about 80 percent of your maximal heart rate. This is important because energy used from fat is less likely to be replaced. When glycogen from sugar is used as a fuel source your insulin level drops and you become hungry and are driven to replace those calories. That is why you often hear people say things like, “I exercised for weeks and did not lose a single pound of fat.” These people probably exercised too hard! Here are 8 steps to exercise with a heart rate monitor.
Step 1: Determine your max heart rate using this table from the American Heart Association or determine maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, a 20-year-old would have a maximum heart rate of 200 (220 minus 20 = 200).
Step 2: Determine your heart rate range during exercise. The lowest rate should be 60 percent of your maximum heart rate, and the highest rate should be 90 percent. For a 20-year-old, these two rates would be 120 and 180 beats per minute. Keep these numbers in mind as your heart rate goals while exercising.
Step 3: Put on the heart rate monitor, which should include a chest strap and a wristwatch. The watch will get the best signal if you lightly moisten the chest strap before putting it on.
Step 4: Turn on the watch and begin the exercise. Warm up to your lowest heart rate goal (60%) for three to five minutes.
Step 5: Increase your heart rate by five to 10 beats per minute and exercise for four minutes.
Step 6: Increase your heart rate by 15 beats a minute for one minute. You do not need to wait until you reach this higher heart rate to start the one minute–instead it may take one full minute to reach this higher heart rate goal. After one minute, whether you’ve reached the goal or not, go back down to the preceding heart rate. For example, if you were exercising at 130 beats per minute, you will increase your heart rate until it reaches 145 beats per minute or until one minute has passed and then lower back down.
Step 7: Repeat this four-minute-low, one-minute-high pattern at least four times for a 20-minute workout or more times for a longer workout.
Step 8: To cool down decrease your intensity level to below your lowest heart rate goal and back to your resting rate for the next three to five minutes.
This pattern of varing the workout intensity in called interval training.