Exercise and Fitness Tips to Improve Your Health
Get answers to your questions about exercise, and tips for getting the most from your workouts.
Q. What should my heart rate be during exercise?
Richard Weil, MEd, CDE, recommends calculating your target heart rate with a
formula called the “heart rate reserve” method. Use a watch with a second hand
to keep track of how many times your heart beats per minute. You can feel your
heartbeat at the underside of your wrist or along the side of your neck.
Here's how to use the formula:
- Determine your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from
- Then, subtract your resting heart rate (it's best to take this when you
first wake up in the morning) from your Maximum Heart Rate to find your Heart
Rate Reserve (HRR).
- Multiply your HRR by the percentage of your MHR at which you wish to train
(60% to 85% is the usual range for people looking to increase fitness and
- Add your resting heart rate back to that result to get your target
So, assuming an age of 27, a resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute, and
a desired training range of 70%, the calculation would look like this:
220 - 27 = 193
193 - 70 = 123
123 x .70% = 86
86 + 70 = 156
Remember, this is an estimate, not an absolute. Also keep in mind that
athletes may exceed the training zone, and even the maximum heart rate, during
Q. My weight has hit a plateau. What do I do?
There are several reasons why your weight can hit a plateau, including:
- Losing weight too quickly. When this happens, your metabolism (the rate at
which your body burns calories) can slow down because your body senses it is
starving. Rapid or large amounts of weight loss can slow your metabolism by as
much as 40% in six months.
- Losing muscle. When you lose weight, up to 25% can come from muscle tissue.
And since muscle is the engine in your body that burns calories and helps
maintain your metabolism, losing it can hinder weight loss. Weightlifting can
help preserve and build muscle.
- Reaching your body's particular set point -- the weight and metabolic rate
your body is genetically programmed to be. Once you reach that point, it's much
harder to lose weight and even if you do, you're likely to regain it. If you're
at a weight at which you've hit a plateau in the past, if your body generally
seems to gravitate toward that weight, and you're within a BMI (body-mass
index) range of 20 to 25, then you may be at your set point.
- Decreasing your physical activity and/or increasing your caloric intake.
People lose weight all the time by reducing their caloric intake without doing
any exercise, but it's almost impossible to keep weight off without exercising.
Many scientists agree that physical activity is the single best predictor of
whether a person will maintain a weight loss.
- Other health factors, including thyroid or adrenal gland problems;
medications like antidepressants; quitting smoking; menopause; and