By Kim Duke, NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

We’ve all heard the saying “knowledge is power,” and in the industry of health and fitness, there are no greater words.  We know that we need something to get us headed in the right direction for better health and fitness.   However, not all of us are ready to join a gym or fitness class just yet.

So, if I can encourage you to do one thing that will get you headed in the right direction, it is to move…walk, shuffle, push yourself to get up and go.

It has been found that aerobic exercise of any intensity or duration can improve stamina, decrease stress and aid in weight loss.  If you are presently sedentary or exercise very irregularly, adding 30 minutes of aerobic activity, 5-6 times per week will greatly improve your chances of improved health.

The intensity of the aerobic activity is related to the level of oxygen consumption and the energy demands of your contracting muscles.  Intensity is perhaps the most important variable that can affect your fitness, endurance and aerobic power.  The intensity at which you exercise is measured in heartbeats per minute (your pulse).  The intensity range (your target zone) you choose is also related to many factors such as your present fitness level, your desire to burn fat and lose weight, the activity that you have chosen and your health status.

Heart rate is a guiding factor for the intensity level of aerobic training.  Most heart rate calculations of intensity use your maximum heart rate (max HR), which is the highest heart rate you can attain during hard exercise.

As a rule, any man over 40 or woman over 50 who is thinking about exercising at moderate to high intensities should consider having a stress test. This will screen for electrical changes indicative of decreased heart blood supply and give you a maximum heart rate and a training zone prescription.  You can also get an idea of your maximum heart rate from supervised short aerobic testing.  This is usually safe for people under age 40 with no other medical problems or risk for heart disease.

You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from the number 220.  Fit people over age 40 may have a maximum heart rate that is underestimated by that formula.  Your maximum heart rate times a range of percentages – from 60-85% max HR – will give you an estimate of your various training zones.

There is much more to share to help you to understand Heart Zone Training.  In my next article I will explain how to calculate your heart rate training zones.  This will allow you to choose intensity zones appropriate for accomplishing certain goals.  In the meantime, take a walk, go for a hike or park a little further away from your destination.  Your heart is waiting and will reward you with more stamina and better overall health.