If you want to lose weight, get a heart rate monitor and get moving. The best way to utilize body fat is exercising at an aerobic maximum heart rate. This can be achieved with a simple formula. Take 180 and subtract your age from it. This is your max aerobic heart rate, not your max heart rate, but your aerobic max heart rate. When working at this level, you will be burning a larger percentage of fat to fuel your working muscles. You won’t burn as much sugar for fuel (both stored sugar in the body as well as consumed).
There are a few modifications to the max aerobic heart rate formula. Competitive athletes that have been competing successfully for a few years, no injuries or illnesses, add 5 to your max aerobic HR. However, if you have been sick, injured, had surgery, or not showing signs of progress, or on medication subtract 5-10. For young people,16 and under, use 165 as the max aerobic heart rate. For people 65 and older, you can add anywhere from 1-10 beats to your max aerobic number.
Ok, so you have your number. You give it a try and it seems really easy. Ridiculously easy. Now you are wondering how this is beneficial and how will you ever improve when going so slow. You finish your exercise and don’t even feel like you did anything. Before you throw in the towel on this idea consider this: you will become more efficient, lose body fat, reduce inflammation, reduce your chance of physical injury, have more energy, improve hormonal balance, improve endurance, improve nutritional balance and save money by not needing to buy as many sports drinks, bars and pizzas because you are starving post activity and just can’t wait to eat! By burning more fat for fuel you won’t be as ravenous after an activity because, you utilized fat not all your stored sugar to fuel you. I won’t go into all the benefits of a lower heart rate training, but here are two reasons to consider it.
First, as you continue to work your aerobic system more than your anaerobic system, you will become more efficient. As you become more efficient you will then need to work harder to get your heart rate into your max aerobic zone, a good thing. You will get faster and be more efficient at it. You may eventually find your muscle strength slows you down before your aerobic system does.
Second, exercise is stress on the body. It’s good stress as long as you don’t always work at a high heart, ie, above your max aerobic heart rate. When the body is stressed, it treats stress as stress. Our bodies don’t differentiate between good stress and bad stress (think toxic smoke). It recognizes a stress, then responds by releasing cortisol, our fight or flight hormone, to deal with the stress. Once the stress is perceived to have passed, cortisol levels return to normal and all is well again. Pretty amazing self regulating system. However, when the body is under continued stress, cortisol levels can remain high. It is this elevated cortisol level that wreaks havoc on the body. Signs of an over stressed body are the reverse of all of the above benefits: fatigue, increased body fat, chronic inflammation (sore back, knee pain, plantar issues), hormonal imbalances, reduced endurance, etc. Unchecked, these little pains can lead to greater problems, possibly creating dis-ease in the body. However, working more aerobic vs anaerobic can reduce overall stress on the body, thus reducing chronic elevated cortisol levels and the problems associated with it.
You can test yourself with your max aerobic heart rate. Try cycling, running, walking, or whatever your endurance activity is, for a set distance at your max aerobic heart rate. Pick an activity that you can repeat a few more times over the next few months. For example, running on a track for three miles. Work at your max aerobic heart rate after a nice long warm up. Measure how long it takes to cover the distance at your max aerobic heart rate. In the above example, record the time it takes for each mile. In a few weeks, and committing to training at your max aerobic heart rate, repeat the test. Compare your results to the first. Are the times faster? Did you need to work a little bit harder to reach your max? Continue to test yourself over several weeks and months, compare changes. You will see improvement in your aerobic function as long as you are committed to maintaining your max aerobic heart rate in the weeks and month between testing yourself.
There are numerous benefits to working this lower aerobic zone. Get slow to get faster, efficient, and overall healthier. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose except a few pounds!