There are several methods to measure at what intensity you are exercising: Heart Rate, Rating of Perceived Exertion and the Talk Test.
What it is
This method is the most effective and accurate way of determining how hard you are exercising. You need to understand what your target heart rate zones are and then, while exercising, you have to take your pulse to evaluate in which zone your heart rate falls. There are two methods of finding your Target Heart Rates:
Based on how you feel during exercise, this method requires you to listen to your body and to be able to judge if you are working hard enough.
Mostly used to know if you are working too hard, this method says that if you can’t hold a conversation while you are exercising, you are probably over exerting yourself and should decrease intensity.
Target Heart Rate Zones
Regardless of the method used, however, the Target Heart Rate Zones remain the same. The chart below describes the zones in detail.
Target Heart Rate Zone*
What it does
Who Should be in this Range
55% – 65% of Maximum Heart Rate(MHR)**
Absolute minimum of where your heart rate should be in order to see cardiovascular benefits. Training in this zone will begin to improve your hearts’ ability to pump blood and improve the muscle cells ability to utilize oxygen. This is a good zone for long slow distance exercise.
Those who are beginning an exercise regimen or are out of shape
65 – 75% of MHR
The “Aerobic Zone” or “Target Heart Rate Zone”, it is the most effective for overall cardiovascular fitness. It increases your cardio-respiratory capacity (the body’s ability to transport oxygenated blood to the muscle cells and carbon dioxide away from the cells). After a while you will be able to go longer in less time and your body will burn less glucose and more stored fat as fuel .
75 – 85% of MHR
This zone often results in significant training effects in the heart, lungs and skeletal muscles, resulting in improved aerobic performance.
85% – 90% of MHR
At this point you begin to cross over from aerobic training to anaerobic training (anaerobic threshold). At this point, the body cannot effectively remove lactic acid from the working muscles quickly enough. This zone is very difficult and your muscles become tired, your breathing becomes heavy and you become fatigued. The benefit of training in this zone is that you can increase your body’s ability to tolerate and deal with lactic acid for a longer period of time.
90 – 100% of MHR (VO2 Max)
In this zone, lactic acid develops very quickly because you are operating with oxygen debt to the muscles. You will not be able to stay at this level very long.
* To calculate your Target Heart Rate and Maximum Heart Rate, see the Target Heart Rate Calculators . Always check your pulse frequently throughout your workout to make sure you are within your target heart rate (THR) zone.