Beginning your weight loss journey can be rather confusing. With a plethora of information out there it is hard to know what will work best for you. Luckily, there are some simple basics that can give you a jump-start. Four areas that need definite consideration are listed below to help you customize your routine in a way that benefits you the most. Take out a sheet of paper and a pen, and begin tailoring the workout to you.
Perhaps the most challenging element of developing your own exercise program. How hard should I push myself? Should I be keeping up with the girl on the video? Why is everything going dark right now? Is it ok that I need to vomit? All questions that may, or may not go through your mind during a workout session. Fortunately, with a little math we can determine exactly how hard you should be working.
Monitoring our heart rate is one of the best ways to objectively know how hard we are working, without having to use fancy equipment. Figuring out what our target heart rate should be is a matter of simple math. A low to moderate-intensity training window – about 40 to 50 percent of one’s heart rate reserve (HRR) – performed over a prolonged duration, optimizes weight loss. If you are trying to enhance your cardiorespiratory endurance just bump the HRR percentages to 60 to 84 percent. For the purpose of this article however, we will be discussing how to optimize your workout for weight loss.
First step, figure out your resting heart rate:
- Set down and relax.
- Find your pulse by placing index and middle finger on the right or left side of your adam’s apple, and press. Do not press hard, press just enough for you to feel a reasonably strong pulsation.
- Set a timer for one minute, and count how many beats you feel within a minute.
- The number of beats you feel within a minute is your resting heart rate, or HRrest.
Second, calculate your max heart rate, or HRmax – the age-related number of beats per minute (bpm) of the heart when working at its maximum:
- Use this equation: HRmax = 208 – 0.7 x your age
- Example (30-year-old): 208 – 0.7 x 30 = 187
- HRmax = 187 bpm
Third, calculate target heart rate range using the heart rate reserve method, or HRR method, at 40 percent and 50 percent of HR reserve (for optimal weight loss):
- Use this equation: Target heart rate range = HRrest + ((HRmax – 0.50 x HRrest) x 0.40 and .50)
- Example (HRrest is 70 bpm and HRmax is 187bpm):
- 70 + ((187 – 0.50 x 70) x .40) = 131 bpm
- 70 + ((187 – 0.50 x 70) x .50) = 146 bpm
- Target heart rate range = 131 bpm to 146 bpm
To summarize the above: a 30-year-old with a resting heart rate of 70 bpm has a max heart rate of 187 bpm, and a target heart rate range of 131 bpm to 146 bpm. Meaning, they should stay within that range to optimize weight loss when exercising.
Frequency refers to the number of times per week one exercises. If you are new to the whole exercise thing, we suggest beginning with two workouts a week. Because weight loss is optimized within a low to moderate intensity (40 to 50 percent) of HR window, two or even three times a week at a low intensity may not achieve the caloric expenditure required for the desired result. This being the case, work your way up to six days a week of low to moderate intensity exercise.
Duration refers to the amount of time spent exercising in one session, or training window. Optimal duration depends on the intensity, frequency, and fitness level of a person. In short, the greater the intensity, the shorter the duration needed for the desired result. For lower intensity exercises, it is recommended to workout for a duration of 45 minutes. However, going over 45 minutes may increase risk of injury. So take care and note your body’s response to training sessions. New pains consistently aggravated by workouts should be assessed by your primary healthcare provider.
Mode refers to the type of exercise device, or activity you choose to improve your fitness. The best cardiovascular exercises involve the use of the large muscle groups activated in a rhythmic nature for a prolonged duration. Stationary bikes, treadmills, and rowing machines are great examples of modalities that involve large muscle groups. Excellent outdoor activity options include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and cross-country skiing. For a novice exerciser, we recommend starting out on a mode that requires minimal skill and can be performed at a constant intensity. When fitness improves, start experimenting with other activities that interest you, but that also remain appropriate for your fitness level.