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Your heart rate during exercise is good at indicating how hard your body is working. The average adult has a heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute. When you engage in physical activity, your heart rate increases to compensate for the extra workload. Your heart rate is commonly used to estimate the amount of calories being burned. Knowing which heart zone to aim for helps you maximize the fat-burning potential of your workout.
Max fat oxidation refers to the peak amount of fat being burned as energy during exercise. Although this number varies between individuals, it is estimated that you reach your fat-burning peak when you exercise at 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, according to a study in the October 2009 issue of the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research." This heart rate zone is commonly known as the "aerobic zone."
You need to know your maximum heart rate before you can calculate how many beats per minute to aim for. Subtracting your age from the number 220 is an easy formula used to predict your max heart rate. If you are 28 years old, that means your estimated max is 192 beats per minute. Once you have your max, multiply that number by the percentage of intensity you choose to work out at. In this example, if you're working out at 80 percent of your max heart rate, you need to aim for 153 beats per minute.
With a bit of practice, you can predict the exercise intensity you are at by how you feel. During light-intensity exercise, you can hold a conversation without a problem and your breathing pattern is normal. Your breathing begins to quicken once you reach moderate intensity, and you can still carry on a conversation but are unable to sing at this level. During high-intensity exercise, you breathe very rapidly and are unable to speak except for a few short words at time. The aerobic zone is considered moderate intensity.
If weight loss is your goal, consider adding interval training to your workout regimen. Interval training, which consists of short bursts of high-intensity exercise, is well known to burn more calories than working out for the same amount of time at a consistent intensity level. The goal here is to exercise at 80 to 85 percent of your max heart rate for short intervals. Avoid exercising above 85 percent of your maximal heart rate if you are a beginner.
Exercise plays an important role in weight loss, weight maintenance and overall health. Adults who engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week reap substantial benefits. Even more benefits occur when you increase that number to 300 minutes each week, according to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans.