Weight Management & Heart Rate Monitors

Improving Your Quality of Life, One Heartbeat at a Time

by Richard Dafter

The following article addresses how to create an appropriate plan of action to capitalize on the relationship between heart rate and calorie burning for weight management. The central focus will be to optimize your time spent on physical activities through the use of a heart rate monitor.

As Tom Venuto, author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle says, "The law of calorie balance is an unbreakable law of physics: Energy in versus energy out dictates whether you will gain, lose or maintain your weight." All physical activity will burn calories. By definition, a calorie (more accurately, a kilocalorie) is the amount of heat required to raise 1 kg of water 1 degree Celsius. Phil Kaplan, one of the world's most in demand fitness professionals says, "Every time you blink, swallow, type, or roll over in bed, additional calories have to be burned to provide the fuel for movement.

When the body is at rest, bodily functions continue. You breathe. Your heart beats. Your brain sends out chemical signals and impulses." These activities, to name just a few, account for the calories that make up your basal metabolic rate. Planned activities such as walking, aerobics, swimming, bicycling, weight training, etc. are what you need to engage in, in order to burn the calories that you need to manage your weight. Polar heart rate monitors are the perfect tool to monitor heart rate while doing these sports and activities.

You cannot just participate in an activity, however, and expect to get the desired results. You need to maximize calorie burning for the duration of that activity. That is where heart rate plays a crucial role. The most effective heart rate zone for fat burning is, generally speaking, between 65% - 75% of your maximum heart rate (see table). Although you will burn calories above that range and participating in activities for brief periods of time (assuming you are physically capable) in the higher heart rate zones has significant benefit, your duration will generally be much shorter. The longer you are able to participate in an activity, the more calories you will burn.

Traditional heart rate measurement at the wrist or neck obviously has significant drawbacks. Polar Electro, Inc., the manufacturer of Polar heart rate monitors, realized the potential for being able to continuously monitor heart rate, first for competitive sports and then for the general public to use in fitness and weight management activities. The OwnZone feature on many Polar heart rate monitors is a perfect example of how technology has replaced the far less effective traditional methods of determining heart rate. Since your physical well being can be compromised by stress, lack of sleep, being poorly hydrated and so forth, the OwnZone feature found on Polar heart rate monitors determines on any given day an individual's correct exercise zone. It guides you through an appropriate warm-up routine and automatically determines a safe and effective exercise heart rate zone by taking into account your current physical condition and thereby assuring you that you will be maximizing your body's ability to burn fat.

Having established the relationship between heart rate and calorie burning, it is now clear that a heart rate monitor is like having a personal trainer or coach on your wrist at all times. Although you may not feel like working out, your heart may tell you that you are emotionally tired and not actually in need of a rest or recovery day. On the other hand, a higher heart rate can indicate that you are in the early stages of fighting off a cold or the flu and that prudence and moderation would be dictated. An intuitive trainer or coach would also recognize factors that would determine how long, how hard and whether you should work out on any given day.

Finally, there is the obvious relationship between heart rate and effort. Someone who is experienced with working out may know their perceived effort. But perceived effort, as seen in the examples used above, can also have its drawbacks. Heart rate is the ultimate guide to your current physical condition and activity level. As your heart gets stronger by engaging in physical activity, you must still stay within your fat burning zone to optimize the value of your workout. Although you may think that distance over time (for example, if you walk one mile in 15:00) is an adequate guide, you will find that your heart will adapt and in order to stay within your zone, you must walk that same distance more quickly or go farther in the same amount of time.

In a time conscious society where family and work obligations tax our ability to find the time for physical activity, you must maximize the benefit of your effort each and every time that you engage in fitness activities. This can be accomplished simply and effectively by using a Polar heart rate monitor.

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