We all know that cardiovascular exercise is good for us. I could even venture to say that we all know why: healthy heart, healthy lungs and of course, it burns calories. But did you know that if you work out too hard it could actually be harmful?
You may have heard of the target heart rate, also known as “the zone.” Many gyms have a chart with numbers pertaining to this zone. This is known as the “heart rate chart.”

Your training heart rate zone is an area in which you maintain your heart rate so you are working your heart and lungs but not overworking them. Obviously, if you’re not working hard enough, you won’t get results; however, if you’re working too hard you aren’t doing yourself any good either. If your workout is too intense, you can put stress on your heart and are not likely to improve your cardio conditioning. The stress can also decrease your immune system. The most common result of overworking your body is that you work out too hard, hate how you feel afterward, and don’t want to go back and do it again. Most people stop there when that happens.

So how do you maximize your workout without overdoing it? Your training heart rate zone is 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. There are several methods to figure your heart rate, but the easiest is way is to start by subtracting your age from 220. The sum is your estimated maximum heart rate. Multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.55, which gives you the low end of your zone. Next, multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.85, and now you have the high end. Those two numbers make your training heart rate zone. Confused? Follow this formula, and you’ll get it just like the pros:

220 – age = maximum heart rate (MHR)

MHR x 0.55 =

MHR x 0.85 =

Now that you have your target heart rate you can control your cardiovascular workouts. The most common heart rate for a good workout is around 75 percent of maximum; however, there is no one-size-fits-all number. Typically a person just beginning an exercise routine will need to stay at the lower end of the heart rate zone. The more conditioned you are, the higher you can elevate your heart rate without discomfort.

There are several methods of cardiovascular training. The most common is a five-minute warm-up, then several minutes at a pace you can tolerate that makes you feel like you’re working, then a five-minute cool down. Another method is interval training. This is where you elevate your heart rate for five minutes recover at a slower pace for one minute, then repeat the cycle for your desired length of workout. Circuit training is another good option: You change machines during your cardio workout. For example, start running or walking on a treadmill for five minutes, then move over to the elliptical machine for five minutes, and finish on the recumbent bike for five more.

There is no “best” way to do it, just so long as you do it. It’s a good idea to change things up so you keep from getting bored and as a bonus, you will also train different muscle groups. The bottom line is to regulate the intensity, but most of all remember: You’re worth it!