WPS Health Insurance Blog

Are you working hard enough when you exercise?

Posted by Mark Mitchell

Sep 19, 2013 9:00:00 AM

Resting pulseYou get up early and take the dog for a 10-minute stroll around the block every morning.  This constitutes your daily exercise, right? Any time you can move your body, especially in 10-minute (or greater) intervals, you are helping improve or maintain your overall health.

The question of whether this activity is enough to meet the requirement for your day depends on the goals that you have established for yourself. Please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for physical activity to determine how much exercise is right for you.

You have to challenge yourself in order to grow as an individual. Get out of your comfort zone a bit. Using your heart rate is one way to get a good estimate as to whether you are working hard enough.

You want to work out at a heart rate that aligns with your goals. For weight loss, maintaining a heart rate between 60 and 70% of your maximum is ideal. You can help build your endurance by working at around 80% of your maximum.

So, how do you determine your target heart rate? There are several ways to go about it.

Option 1: Do the math

1)    Determine your Max Heart Rate by taking 220 minus your age. 

2)    Determine your resting heart rate by performing a 60-second pulse check on your neck or carotid artery (below the ear). Be sure you’ve been resting comfortably without movement for some time to get a true resting measurement.

3)    Follow this example: A 25-year-old person with a resting heart rate of 55 beats per minute would like to know what his target heart rate would be if he wanted to work out in the cardio zone, or 80% of maximum.

  1. 220 - 25 (age) = 195 (maximum heart rate)
  2. 195 (max HR) - 55 (resting HR) = 140
  3. 140 x 0.8 (aerobic zone) = 112
  4. 112 + 55 =  167 Target Heart Rate

Option two: “The talk test”

Another (much easier) way to determine the intensity of your workout is to do the “talk test.” This is a simple test that can be done on the go and doesn’t require any math, making it much more practical while exercising.

Try talking with a friend while working out. Try singing if you are alone. If you are easily able to hold a conversation or hit the notes, you are most likely in a low-intensity range.  

If you can talk but find yourself pausing to regain your breath, this is the moderate intensity or fat burning range. For most, this is the ideal range to be in.

If you find yourself gasping for air or struggling to talk or sing at any capacity, you are entering the high-intensity range. Although it is good to partake in some activity at this level, as with any physical activity, please use caution and consult with your physician before you start.

Option three: Use our online tool

The easiest way of all to figure out your target heart rate is to use our online tool.

As we always recommend, before you start any exercise program, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you figure out what percentage of your maximum you should word toward. What’s your favorite method for finding your target heart rate? Leave us a comment below!

Topics: Wellness