Cardio Training Zone and Body Fitness

Also referred to as aerobic fitness, cardio-respiratory fitness or body fitness, depends on how efficiently the heart, lungs and circulatory system can take in, transport and utilize oxygen to keep the body going during exercise.

Training heart rate

For cardio-respiratory health to improve, aerobic exercise must be performed at a certain intensity, known as the cardio ‘training zone’. This is based on a percentage of estimated maximal heart rate (MHR) – how hard an individual’s heart can work. MHR is calculated by subtracting a person’s age in years from 220 (MHR declines with age).

Depending on an individual’s level of body fitness, she can then exercise at an intensity ranging from 55-90 per cent of her maximal heart rate, with an optimum aerobic training zone of 70-80 per cent of her MHR.

A 30-year-old’s MHR would be 190 (220 minus 30), so her training zone would be between 105 (55 per cent of 190) and 171 (90 per cent of 190) beats per minute.

For easy reference, an individual can take her pulse for ten seconds a few minutes into her workout and then check against the chart on the post: Cardiovascular Exercises for Fitness. Less people will remain at a lower training zone (55-75 per cent of their MHR) and very fit people will remain in a higher zone (75-90 per cent of their MHR). In general, training at the lower end of the cardio training zone burns more fat, and training at the higher end of the cardio training zone improves an individual’s ability to work harder aerobically.

These figures are estimates: MHR can vary by as much as 15 beats per minute. If an individual’s training zone feels too hard, she should drop to a more comfortable level. If it feels too easy, she can work a bit harder.

The bleep test

This gruelling test can be done in a gym or outdoors on level ground (using a portable cassette player). First an individual needs the bleep test cassette (which can be bought in a good sports shop). A track should be measured out then, when she is ready, the individual listens to the instructions. She should run up and down, reaching each end of the track at the sound of the bleep. At first she will keep up with the bleeps at an easy jog. Gradually she will have to speed up. The bleep test provides an excellent picture of an individual’s aerobic fitness if she performs it until she is unable to keep up with the bleeps.

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