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How To Use A Heart Rate Monitor Effectively

Heart Rate Monitor Benefits

If you want to get fit, lose some weight, take part in sport or simply enjoy a healthy lifestyle, a Cardiosport heart rate monitor is for you. When exercising in the past you may have thought the only way to reap benefits from exercise was to finish each session feeling totally exhausted. The fact is that this is not necessary and may well do more harm than good. To benefit from exercise you need to balance three elements: frequency, intensity and time. Frequency and time were always under your control but now with a Cardiosport heart rate monitor you can control the intensity by exercising at the heart rate intensity that both produces results for your fitness goals and is achievable.

So how does this work? The first step is to find out your maximum heart rate (MHR). This is done by using a formula or by taking a sport-specific test.

The formula:

220 – age = age predicted maximum heart rate in beats per minute (bpm)

For example, if you are 30 years of age, your age predicted MHR is 220 – 30 = 190 bpm. Using some basic maths, you can then calculate the training or exercise zones that will enable you to achieve your fitness goals. Once determined, the lower and higher heart rate values can be set on your Cardiosport heart rate monitor. These then control the intensity of your exercise by alerting you when to increase or decrease your exercise intensity by means of audible and visual alarms, guiding you to exercise more effectively to attain your personal fitness goals.

So a 30 year old just starting out on an exercise program with the aim of getting fitter would start exercising at a gentle pace of 50% – 59% MHR (95 to 114 bpm). If they wanted to lose weight, then a slightly higher intensity of 60-69% MHR (114 to 133 bpm) would be required. To improve aerobic capacity or athletic performance a higher intensity of 70-79% MHR (133 to 152 bpm) is needed. Competitive athletes may need to add interval training sessions during the week in the anaerobic threshold heart rate zone, which is 80-89% MHR (152 to 171 bpm). This high intensity exercise helps train muscles to handle lactic acid.

Your personal heart rate

If you train for a specific sport, you will benefit from taking a sport-specific test at a sports or sports retail centre to determine your maximum heart rate. The test provides you with a personally accurate maximum heart rate to determine heart rate ranges specific to you and your training schedule. It is particularly useful if you are a multi-sport athlete, as you get your maximum heart rate for each sport, allowing you to train – and compete – very effectively.

How a Cardiosport Monitor works

A chest transmitter via moistened electrodes measures the ECG signal from your heart and ‘transmits’ this to a wrist worn heart rate monitor that displays the heart rate. Other information is also displayed depending on the monitor you have chosen. With a quick glance at your wrist monitor you can keep track of how hard you are working during exercise.

How To Use A Heart Rate Monitor Effectively

Train Effectively – Use the Zones

If you are a beginner with the goal of improving overall fitness, losing weight or reducing stress, exercise in the healthy heart zone which is 50-60 percent of your maximum heart rate.

If you already exercise regularly but are aiming to lose body fat, exercise in the weight management zone which is 60-70 percent of maximum heart rate. Build up to a work out of an hours continuous exercise.

If your goal is to improve aerobic capacity or athletic performance, exercise in the aerobic zone which is 70-80 percent of maximum heart rate.

Competitive athletes may need to add interval training sessions during the week in the anaerobic threshold heart rate zone, which is 80-90 percent of maximum. This high intensity exercise helps train muscles to handle lactic acid.

However, train sparingly at these upper limits. Exercising regularly at a heart rate intensity that is too high does not produce additional aerobic benefits and increases the possibility of an athletic injury. Interval training and anaerobic threshold workouts require a high degree of fitness, and is not necessary for general fitness training.

Once you determine your individual training zones, you can easily program them into your Cardiosport monitor. Your monitor will notify you with a beep if you are exercising above or below the pre-programmed zones. Many Cardiosport models record heart rate at selectable intervals. You can then evaluate your exercise after each session and adjust your intensity if needed. Recording heart rate also allows you to monitor your fitness improvements over time.

Tips on Effective Training:

Warm up & cool down.
Always do a slow warm up of 5-10 minutes, followed by some gentle stretching. Then gradually climb into the target range you have set. End every workout with a 5-10 minute cool down, again followed by some gentle stretching. The importance of this can not be over emphasized. Studies have shown that people who warm up and cool down adequately have fewer athletic injuries.

Type of exercise.
Choose activities that use large muscle groups and which are continuous in nature. Some good examples are walking, swimming, running, aerobic dance, stair climbing machines, ski machines, treadmills, cycling or exercise bikes. Feel free to include more than one activity – cycle one day, swim the next, and do aerobics on the third. This is called Cross Training and helps exercise all muscle groups, reduces boredom and keeps motivation high.

Frequency of exercise.
Exercise in the target range that you have set at least 3-5 times per week, with no more than 48 hours between sessions. Even on ‘rest days’ gentle exercise such as a leisurely walk can be beneficial.

Intensity of exercise. Select an exercise intensity zone that is both within your capability and in which you can achieve consistency. Studies show that people who exercise at too high an intensity, especially in the initial stages of their program, drop out sooner, have more injuries, and tend to develop a negative impression towards exercise in general. If necessary start in a low exercise intensity zone and build up.

Time exercising.
Aim for 20-60 minutes of continuous exercise in your target zone each session. If you are unable to exercise for 20 minutes initially, slow down and gradually build up to this.

Before you begin your exercise program, get an assessment of your overall fitness level. You must get clearance from your doctor that it is safe for you to exercise.

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