How to Use a Heart Rate Monitor—Plus Workouts to Get You in the Zone!

The holidays have a way of bringing nifty techy gadgets to our lives. But if Santa brought you a much-desired heart rate monitor but not the know-how to use it properly, this one’s for you! Today, Giovanni Masi, a fitness expert and ambassador for Digifit, shares all you need to know to work that device to your advantage!

beautiful woman at the gym smiling doing stretching exercises

Monitoring heart rate is not only one of the most important tools for tracking exercise, it’s the smartest and safest way to train. Your heart rate monitor is like a speedometer or tachometer; it tells you how hard the engine (your heart) is working. The stronger the heart, the more efficient it is. The more efficient it is, the less work it has to do. With a strong heart, you can continue to push yourself by exercising longer and harder. A weak heart has to work very hard to keep you alive, which places you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other illnesses.

Your heart will tell you lots of important things about your body. In fact, using a heart rate monitor will give insight into your fitness level, exercise intensity, current physical capability and will also provide the most accurate caloric burn data. Heart rate training also offers the ability to track progress over time so that you can make smart choices about your exercise and goals.

Here is a basic guide to training with your heart rate and using heart-rate monitors.

Heart Rate Monitor 101

Typically, a heart rate monitor consists of a chest strap and a watch. Today though, you can track your heart rate using your smartphone. The chest strap transmits a person’s heart rate data to the device in beats per minute (BPM) or as the percent of your maximum heart rate. Prices can vary from $50 to $400 depending on features. Thanks to today’s mobile technology, smartphone apps like Digifit iCardio let you track your heart rate during exercise as well as weight, blood pressure, sleep and more—so you can have all your data in one place making it easy to analyze, share and edit. There are other types of heart rate monitors including those found on exercise machines. However, these do not offer the most accurate measurement since they use generalized numbers.

Heart Rate Training Zones
Heart rate training is essential for cardiovascular health and when monitoring your heart rate, you will find five heart zones, which are measured by the intensity of your workout effort. Specific goals and exercises target different heart zones, so knowing which zones to workout in is crucial for achieving desired results.

Below are the basic heart rate training zones, based on % of Max Heart Rate (MHR)

Most warm-ups should take place in Zone 1, which is also the exercise level for a sedentary person. A long, low intensity workout should occur in Zone 2 or low-end Zone 3, which is considered a good aerobic workout zone. Zone 4 starts reaching anaerobic levels usually at around 85 percent maxHR (commonly used for intervals and sprints). Zone 5 completely reaches anaerobic levels and is recommended only for serious athletes training for specific race events.

Get to Know Your Heart
Using a heart rate monitor lets you stay focused on your workout and alerts you to necessary adjustments needed to stay safe and healthy. For instance, an unusual spike in heart rate on your device may alert you to slow down the pace or effort level of your workout. Whether you are tired, dehydrated or simply working too hard, the monitor keeps you in tune with how your body is responding to the exercise so that you can control it. Tracking heart rate allows you to identify your capabilities and limitations while encouraging you to push yourself when you are ready. This knowledge, especially over time, can help guide your fitness and goals so that you are always working to your fullest potential.


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