How Using a Heart Rate Monitor Can Improve Your Workouts

It’s never been easier or more affordable to work out using a heart rate monitor. While a chest strap monitor still provides the greatest accuracy, wristband models like the Garmin Forerunner and the Fitbit are rapidly becoming more sophisticated. But why work out with a heart rate monitor at all? Here’s how monitoring your heart rate can improve your cardio workouts.


You can track your resting heart rate 

Your resting heart rate (RHR) can be a good indicator of general health and fitness. Men will typically have a RHR of 60 to 80 beats per minute (BPM), while women will have a healthy range of anywhere from 70 to 90 BPM. Typically the lower the better, and some athletes in their prime condition will reach as low as 40 BPM. By averaging measurements over a week before and throughout a specific training period, you’ll be able to monitor real progress on how your heart (and performance) is shaping up.


You can gauge your workout intensities

Your training can be optimised by working out at certain heart rate zones, calculated at percentages of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Lower heart rate zones are ideal for burning fat, for example, while exercising in higher zones will build up your fitness levels. Calculating your MHR requires high-tech equipment for a precise reading, but for an approximate estimate you can use the following formula:


Your maximum heart rate = 208 – (.7 x your age)


So for a 30 year old, 208 – (0.7 x 30) would equal a MHR of 183.5 BPM. This maximum heart rate can be used to refine your workout intensities.


Burning fat and building stamina

In running or exercising at higher intensities, you can begin to train your body to operate more efficiently. Runners can build their stamina and body response by exercising at around 85-90% of their MHR, providing a specific and measurable goal to increase their tolerance and endurance. This rate is not ideal for fat burn, however, as only about 15% of the calories burnt will be from body fat. If you are aiming to lose weight, exercising at around 65% of your MHR means that almost half of the calories you’re burning are made up from body fat. By tailoring your workout to your objectives you can achieve the results you want to see.
Above all else common sense should prevail, but technology is making it progressively easier to improve your wellbeing. By listening to your body and the signs of its performance, you can maximise your sessions and work towards better all-round fitness.