Although our focus is on the treadmill and elliptical machines that help you maintain your heart health, we regularly get questions and one of those common questions is… what is the best workout? Another question is that is common, which is more pointed is…what is the best workout for heart health?
There are several approaches to tackle this question and they are:
1. Long consistent exercise sessions holding your heart rate in your target zone.
2. HIIT training that varies the intensity and duration of the workout.
3. Varying intensity by using the capabilities of the machine tailored to your body.
You can determine your heart rate zone by first determining your maximum heart rate. That is done by taking 220 and subtracting your age. Then multiply that number by 70% to 80% to determine your training range. That is where you should train, and most professionals say you should stay in that range for at least 30 minutes per workout. For a 40-year-old person, the math looks like this:
220 – 40 = 180 BPM (beats per minute)
180 x 70% = 126
180 x 80% = 144
Heart Rate Zone = 126 to 144 BPM
So, for someone doing this training, they need to maintain their heart rate between 126 and 144 beats per minute.
For HIIT training, just Google the HIIT search term and you will find out that the High Intensity Interval Training can vary widely in regard to recommendations, but it will be important to find one that is right for you. It is essentially periods or bursts of high intensity followed by lower intensity exercise which will vary your heart rate substantially during the workout.
The final way to do heart rate training is to get a machine that has heart rate programs and comes with a heart monitor (the chest monitors are still the best in our opinion) and just pick the programs that come with the machine. You can also just do it yourself with a separate heart rate monitor.
Most people don’t realize that changes in incline which can be done with a ramp on an elliptical or the incline settings of a treadmill actually have much more of an effect on your heart rate than changes in speed. I first learned this when I was working for one of the large fitness companies in the 1990’s. Our company was one of the first to offer heart rate control on a treadmill.
We brought in a PhD in Exercise Physiology to write the heart rate program on our machine. We were going to vary the speed to keep the users heart rate in the right range and he informed us that when you go up a hill, the effects are much quicker and more effective than if you increase the speed. Some of us were skeptical, but I guess he knew his stuff because that quickly became an industry standard.
So, to wrap it up, you need to find an exercise type that you enjoy and then find the machine that is right for you because the best workout is the one that you are going to stick with over the long run.