By Simon Gould
Using your heart rate is a great way to see how hard your exercising. Your heart rate when running and walking depends on a number of factors. We can use it to determine how fast or slow you need to go in order to achieve the exercise goals you’re aiming for. This is the case for health, weight loss and muscle gain.
Measuring your heart rate
Your heart rate is individual to you and your age is a big factor in how high it can go when exercising. The best way to detect your heart rate is by wearing a heart rate monitor. The pulse sensors on treadmills are inaccurate. The best monitor is a heart rate chest strap or the new fitness wrist bands.
The best heart rate chest straps are made by polar* and give very accurate and clear readings that are easy to understand on a wrist watch that accompanies the strap. They change readings as soon as your heart rate changes. Some treadmills can pick up the transmission from the strap and display your heart rate on the console.
The new way to measure your heart rate is using fitness bands or activity trackers* which have been selling in massive quantities. These you wear like a watch and they have sensors next to the wrist that can accurately measure your heart rate. These connect to cell phones and computers and display information over a period of time in graph formats.
Your maximum heart rate
The key to knowing what heart rate you should have when exercising is by calculating your maximum heart rate. The most crude way is taking the formula of 220 minus your age. For example if you’re 40 years old then 220 – 40 is 180 where 180 is your maximum heart rate. This can be different for some people but gives you a decent starting point to work from.
For more accuracy to determine your maximum heart rate you could get it tested in laboratory conditions by experts. Or you could do this yourself (have someone with you for safety and work up to your limits). After a warm up you run as fast as you can for 4 minutes, then walk for 3. Then run again for 4 minutes and walk for 3 then finally push as hard as you can for 2 minutes and take your heart rate at it’s highest point.
The heart rate you should have when running on a treadmill
Now you know your maximum heart rate we’re getting closer to answering the main question. But what your heart rate should be when running on a treadmill is determined by what you’re trying to achieve. These are measured as percentages of your maximum heart rate as you never want to run at your maximum again as it’s a little dangerous to keep doing it.
You need to be at a different percentage for your long runs, your aerobic runs, anaerobic and sprinting. The percentages are quite straight forward, so if we take our 40 year old with his maximum heart rate of 180. Then using the percentages below he would do his long or easy runs at 108 bpm (beats per minute) to 126 bpm which is 60% to 70% of 180. You would do the same to work out the runs below:
|% of maximum heart rate
|Example 40 year old (bpm)
|Long or easy runs
|You want to run at a speed that you can maintain for a long distance. This will help you lose weight and gain fitness by running further than you normally would.
|60% to 70%
|108 to 126
|This is your target for peak cardiovascular fitness and is a moderate run. You would run at this pace most of the time and it helps maintain your fitness level.
|70% to 80%
|126 to 144
|This is a steep incline or a short distance run or race. You can’t keep this up for long. This level builds muscle and you breathe heavily
|80% to 90%
|144 to 162
|This would be suitable for a 100 meter dash or a sprint of an even shorter distance. Attempt this rarely and only if you want to test yourself.
|90% to 100%
|162 to 180
The most effective zone
The American Heart Association recommends moderate intensity exercise (brisk walking) should be done at 50% to 70%, and vigorous exercise (running) should be 70% to 85%. For those looking to lose weight the science says we should exercise at 60% to 80% of our maximum, they call this the fat burning zone. 85% of the calories you burn are from fat in this zone.
Whatever your fitness aim, 60% to 80% should be your target. The intensity for 85% is too high to maintain for any length of time. By exercising in this “fat burning zone”, we’re getting the most benefits from the time spent on our treadmills. If you’re a serious runner there are workouts where you may want to exceed this zone such as in speed training. Make sure you do this kind of workout safely.
As you can see heart rates can be very useful if you’re training on a treadmill. It’s another of the ways you can get the maximum results for the work you put in. It’s just a case of getting a measuring device and working out your maximum heart rate. That’s all it takes and your running and fitness will improve as a result.
It’s also one of the ways to determine the speed you should run at. Instead of guessing you can run to a specific heart rate depending on what kind of run you’re doing. You then set the speed when you’re at the right heart rate. No longer will you run too fast or too slow and waste your precious running time. You’ll find you enjoy it more as well.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.