Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of women over 50. The strength of your heart is a major part of your ability to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. While most of you are putting in the time running, swimming, bicycling, or on one of the various cardio machines, are you really exercising your heart? According to the American Heart Association, your heart pumps nearly 2,000 gallons of blood every day and beats 100,000 times a day.
However, unlike other muscles, your heart muscle does not tire from use. Your heart is like other muscles in that it needs exercise to work efficiently. In fact, any activity that is repetitive, keeps your heart rate elevated, and involves some vigorous movement of large muscles — such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming or bicycling — is good for your heart. One problem is that most people do not keep their heart rate elevated enough to strengthen it; instead they go through the motions and fail to push themselves.
Your heart rate needs to be between 70%-85% of your max heart rate. The easiest way to figure out your max heart rate is 220 – your age = max heart rate. For example, a 30 year old has a max heart rate of 190 (220 – 30 = 190). This is how almost all machines in the gym figure out your heart rate zones. While this is a very good estimate, many individuals and athletes can push their heart rate 10-30 beats above this number because it is not specific to their fitness level. The standard method assumes that everyone your age is the same fitness level as you, regardless of sex, weight, fitness history, etc.
The best way to maximize your time and results is to use the Karvonen Method (pick any website from search) to calculate your specific heart rate zones. This method customizes the heart rate zones to your fitness level by using your resting heart rate in the equation. Looking at the chart you can see that using the standard method can underestimate your training zones to the point that you are no longer training (if you do not challenge the muscle at least to 70%, it will not get stronger).
Your resting heart rate is a measure of how fit your cardiovascular system is right now. Normal resting heart rate is 70-80 beats per minute (bpm). And it will change depending on what your do, exercise makes it better (lower) while sit all day makes it worse (higher). We see Olympic athletes with a resting heart rate of 39 and sedentary individuals with a resting heart rate of 120+.
If you are not working your heart hard enough, you will not see your run times or your fitness level improve. And to make it easier, most heart rate monitors will be picked up by the cardio machines and show your heart rate on the screen.
When you exercise, you are conditioning your heart to perform better under pressure. Exercise forces your heart to supply your muscles with more oxygen and energy than is needed during rest, as well as flush out wastes that pile up in the muscles faster than when you are at rest. The result? A fit heart that can fill with blood and squeeze it out more efficiently and your risks for disease are decreased. It’s time to get up and get moving into the zone.
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