What is heart rate based training?
By Rylee Baisden

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What is heart rate based training?

The Benefits of Using Heart Rates in Your Fitness Programs

Heart rate-based training is a fitness approach in which heart rates are used as the primary measure of exercise intensity. A fitness program using heart rates is designed to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, lower cardiovascular disease risk, and promote weight management by using heart rate zones created with the help of an individual's resting heart rate or maximum heart rate. The three ranges that make up this fitness program include: aerobic (60-80% of HR max), interval (85-95% of HR max) and anaerobic (90-100% of HRmax).

Heart rate training is designed to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, lower cardiovascular disease risk and promote weight management. It does this by using heart rate zones created with the help of an individual's resting heart rate or maximum heart rate:

    • 60%-80% of HRmax = aerobic zone
    • 85%-95% of HRmax = interval training
    • 90%-100% of HRmax= anaerobic fitness zones

The aerobic zone can be used for endurance training where you run at a slow pace for extended periods without any breaks in between. This zone has been shown to increase VO₂ max which will result in improved cardiopulmonary fitness and lead you towards better health.

Interval training, on the other hand, usually consists of short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by rest intervals. This type of workout pushes your body out of its comfort zone but requires less time than running slowly over long distances, which is why it can be a good option for fitness beginners.

Anaerobic or high intensity training is the type of fitness that requires bursts of intense activity. These types of training are described in more detail below.


The benefits of heart rate based training programs 

Aerobic fitness programs

Aerobic fitness consists of exercising at a slow and steady pace that works the heart, lungs, and other organs with little stress on them. For this type of exercise to be effective in achieving goals like increased cardiopulmonary fitness or weight management, you need to perform long-duration workouts without any breaks in between. Examples would include running slowly over prolonged periods or cycling for sustained periods. Some key benefits from participating in this type are improved fitness over time and better cardiovascular fitness.


Benefits of aerobic fitness programs

It is important to know that fitness progresses with time. A level of fitness should be sustained over long periods of time to maintain positive outcomes. Frequent breaks or stops in between workout routines will not produce the desired fitness benefits. These types of programs allow your body to recover enough so that you can increase your fitness levels at each new session.


Disadvantages of aerobic training programs

The disadvantage of this fitness program is that it can be a little boring for people who are not used to long periods of slow-paced exercise. This fitness program also does not always provide the initial fitness level boosts people who are just starting out might expect. This type of fitness program should always be accompanied with exercises like weightlifting or an interval fitness routine to balance your efforts.


Interval fitness programs

Interval training consists of short bursts of high intensity exercises followed by a rest interval. This type is recommended to beginners because it is quick and engaging. Interval workouts can run anywhere from 20 seconds to upwards of 45 minutes. They are usually designed so that there are repeated bouts of intense activity separated by periods of slower recovery. Exercise examples would include sprinting, jumping rope, heavy bag swings and burpees.


Benefits of interval fitness programs

Interval fitness is a good option for beginners because it takes less time and provides various fitness benefits like improved fitness levels, increased cardiopulmonary fitness as well as weight loss; this type of workout will also help improve your health over time too. Intervals are designed to push you out of your comfort zone, but they only take about half the time that would be needed if one was engaged in aerobic exercise. This makes them suitable for people on the go or those who do not have the patience or time to engage in an extended period of low-intensity activity.

This type of workout can be very effective when used with other types of workouts such as strength training or low intensity exercises. Another fitness benefit of this workout is that it can be done anywhere and at any time without a machine or equipment. Some people also find using music makes their interval fitness more enjoyable which is motivating in itself.


Disadvantages of intervals fitness programs

Interval fitness programs only work for beginners because after they have been engaged with it, the body becomes adapted to high-intensity exercise. To obtain sustainable results, anaerobic workouts need to be included on top of intervals. Intervals provide good results if they are used correctly. Avoid low calorie consumption coupled with very intense bouts of physical activity as it can lead to injury and fatigue, which is often the reason for fitness regression or fitness plateaus.

It is important that people who want to engage in interval fitness think about their health levels first; if they are overweight then it may not be a good idea because this type of fitness will stress one's cardiovascular system as well as muscles too much. Without proper preparation, injuries could occur.


Effective heart rate training


Anaerobic fitness programs

The final type of heart rate-based programs is anaerobic fitness which consists of exercising at a fast pace with little rest periods. This fitness zone can also consist of short bursts with long breaks, but it still has to push your body outside its comfort zone. This type provides benefits such as weight loss due to more burning calories per minute but also has higher risks associated since there’s less time to recover between exercises, so injuries may occur.

Anaerobic fitness, also known as high intensity training is the type of fitness that requires bursts of intense activity, so it needs to be coupled with a low-intensity cardio workout such as walking or biking. Examples include sprinting, jumping rope and heavy bag swings; some people choose to do this on their own, but many people prefer group fitness classes where they engage in exercises that burn fat quickly and build muscle. Always check with their doctor before engaging in an any fitness program though because not everyone can handle these types of workouts.

Anaerobic fitness consists of short, high-intensity bursts of physical activity that are performed at a maximum level for about thirty seconds. This type of fitness helps to increase one's fitness levels and weight loss in particular because it is more intense than an aerobic fitness program or interval training but less so than strength training. Some people who engage in this type of activity would feel their heart rate rise up between 120 bpm to 150 bpm while other have reported feeling like they were going through periods of strenuous exercise too. Those working out should always start slowly when engaging with anaerobic fitness programs. Engage in activities that you enjoy as this will help you stay focussed on your fitness goal.


Benefits of anaerobic fitness programs

For those who are able to participate in this type of fitness, the benefits may include: improved weight balance, heart health improvements, increased metabolism rates (which will lead to better fitness levels), improved coordination and balance, and increased endurance. The last benefit being particularly useful for those who want to do something like a marathon or other long-distance event.


Disadvantages of anaerobic fitness programs

The main disadvantages of this type of fitness is that it may require more time than someone would be able to allot themselves, if they are busy. In order to gain the full benefits from this workout, one has to engage in intervals which can range anywhere from 20 seconds all the way up 45 minutes. So, unless you are able to set aside enough time you will see limited success.

The intensity level also needs to be monitored because not everyone will have the same capacity as others. Beginners may need less intense interval workouts, whereas people who are trained already may need higher intensity exercises, such as running or biking.



Heart rate zones are essential in heart rate training fitness programs because they provide different benefits and challenges for the body that are tailored specifically towards improving cardiorespiratory fitness. For example, aerobic fitness provides better cardiovascular fitness while interval training promotes weight management and lower risks associated with heart disease. Both types have their pros and cons, but it is up to you to determine which one works best depending on what your goals are. The key takeaway from this article should be that heart rate fitness programs are important because they provide different benefits and challenges for the body tailored specifically to improving cardiorespiratory fitness. As always, check with your doctor before starting a fitness program.



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