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Using Rates of Perceived Exertion to Help You Determine Your Exercise Zones

Everyone is unique when they exercise and the use of standardized formulas to determine your target heart rate zones can often lead you to exercise at either higher or lower than your actual effective rate. By combining the “Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale” with “Target Heart Rate Zones” you can more effectively estimate how hard your heart should be working while you are exercising.

Exercise can be divided into three different intensity zones:

  • Zone 1 Light Intensity Zone (heart beating at 60 to 70% of Heart Rate Max)
    Helps in weight control, improves endurance, and improves aerobic fitness.
  • Zone 2 Moderate Intensity Zone (70 to 80% of Heart Rate Max)
    Improves aerobic fitness, improves endurance, helps in weight control, accustoms your body to exercising at a faster pace, and begins to raise the speed that you can maintain without building up lactic acid.
  • Zone 3 Hard Intensity Zone (80 to 90% of Heart Rate Max)
    Increases muscles’ tolerance to lactic acid and improves hard, short effort ability.

There are tests available that can accurately determine your heart rate ranges but they can be beyond the reach of many people. So, how can you start to figure out your heart rate ranges and then begin to vary your workouts to achieve the results you want?

While you are exercising, picture a scale from 0 to 10 and ask yourself “how hard am I working?” Use the following descriptions to figure out how hard you are working and then convert that number to a %. For example, if you choose level 6 it roughly corresponds to 60% of your heart rate max. Measure your heart rate at that point and plug your number into the ranges above. It’s a start at heart rate training.

If your answer is 0 to 5 you may not be working hard enough to accomplish your goals or you are just beginning an exercise program.

Perceived Exertion Chart

Level 6: This is the feeling you might get when you are walking somewhere and are very late for an appointment. You know you can maintain this level for your exercise session. Your breathing is somewhat deep and you are aware of it.

Level 7: You are exercising vigorously. There is a definite feeling of fatigue, but you are quite sure you can maintain this level through your exercise session. Your breathing is deep. You can carry on a conversation but you would probably prefer not to.

Level 8: You are exercising very vigorously. There is a definite feeling of fatigue. You think you can maintain this pace for your exercise session but you are not completely sure. You can carry on a conversation but you definitely don’t want to.

Level 9: You are exercising very, very vigorously. You can’t maintain this level for a whole exercise session. Your breathing is labored and you can’t carry on a conversation. Be cautious before trying this level and have a significant aerobic training base.

Use these ranges as a guideline and get to know YOUR BODY and YOUR HEART as you workout. If you need additional help measuring your ranges, or would just like some advice on exercises for each zone, visit us in the Fitness Center! One of our certified personal trainers would be happy to give you advice on how to use the fitness center equipment or our training services to better reach your goals.

Prepared by Anne Tremel
Certified Personal Trainer
Exercise Is Medicine Program Director
Elite Sports Clubs-Brookfield
www.eliteclubs.com