SignatureMD Minutes: Training Zone

Fat loss clearly stands out as the chief reason my patients start an exercise program. Although many have little or no prior exercise experience, some perform semi-regular cardiovascular exercise and still see no significant changes in their body. If you’re thinking: “You mean to tell me that even if I finally get off my butt and do cardio I still might not lose fat?” I am sorry to break the news to you, but the answer is, yes. The sustained intensity and duration of your cardiovascular activity dictate whether or not you burn fat.

Think of fat as nothing more than a storehouse of calories. Every day you consume a quantity of calories in the form of food. You offset that with the amount of calories you burn every day through physical activity, and even while at rest (called the basal metabolic rate). To put it simply: You have “calories in” and “calories out.” If your “calories in” are greater than your “calories out,” the excess is stored as fat. Reverse the two and you lose fat. When doing cardio, it is possible to burn fat with the Karvonen Formula*, a mathematical formula that determines your target heart rate zone. If you maintain your target heart rate, you will get the most out of your cardio workouts.

Calculate your taget heart rate with the following formula:

  • 220 – Age = Maximum Heart Rate
  • Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate = Heart Rate Reserve
  • Heart Rate Reserve x Training Percentage = Resting Heart Rate

*Definition: The Karvonen Formula is a mathematical formula that helps you determine your target heart rate zone. The formula involves using your maximum heart rate (MHR) minus your age to come up with a target heart rate range (which is a percentage of your MHR). Staying within this range will help you work most effectively during your cardio workouts. Martti Karvonen – Exercise physiologist and pioneer of studies of cardiovascular disease epidemiology in Finland. Born on June 28, 1918, in Nurmes, eastern Finland, he died on March 10, 2009, aged 90 years.

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