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Be on target

Dr. David Lemberg ( -- How do you know that your aerobic exercise is truly aerobic?

How can you be sure that you're getting the maximum cardiovascular benefit from the valuable time you spend on your aerobic training sessions? The key is making sure you train in the "target zone".

The target zone refers to how hard your heart is working during exercise, that is, how many times your heart beats per minute. It's a simple, straightforward parameter. Too fast is inefficient and potentially harmful--you're overworking. Too slow is not working hard enough to derive a cardiovascular benefit, that is, you're wasting your time. Target zones are easily calculated: subtract your age from 220; multiply this result by both 60% and 80%. These two results represent the range of values that is your target zone. For example, if you are 40 years old, then

220-40 = 180; 180 X 0.60 = 108

220-40 = 180; 180 X 0.80 = 144

For a 40-year-old, the target zone for efficient cardiovascular exercise is 108-144 beats per minute. How do you utilize this number in practice? To determine how fast your heart is beating during exercise, stop for a moment and take your pulse for ten seconds. Ten seconds, of course, is one-sixth of a minute. The target zone of 108-144 beats per minute is the same as a range of 18-24 beats every ten seconds. So, if you're 40 years old, you know you're training efficiently if you count between 18 and 24 beats in a ten-second interval. Now go back to your training. If you were under 18 heartbeats in ten seconds, work a little harder; if you were over 24, slow down a little.

Here are target zone ranges for a number of age groups:

* Age 30: 19-25 beats in ten seconds
* Age 40: 18-24
* Age 50: 17-23
* Age 60: 16-21
* Age 70: 15-20
* Age 80: 14-19

You don't have to be a fanatic about this. Rather, the target zone information provides a background of both effectiveness and safety. When you are comfortably along in your training, target zone calculations are no longer needed. You'll know instinctively when to speed up and when to slow down.

(c) 2001

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