How to Reach Your Fitness Goals Safely

Wouldn't it be nice to know how effective your workouts are and how to get more out of them? With a heart rate monitor, a small device worn like wristwatches, you can learn if you can safely step up your program a notch. Achieve your goals the right way. It's all about working out smarter, not harder.

Cleveland Clinic advises that it's most beneficial and safest to exercise in your target heart rate, which is normally 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. In this zone, you are burning calories and strengthening your heart. Working out too hard moves your body from aerobic to anaerobic exercise which is less efficient.

Start any exercise program slowly; only after consulting with your physician. Always pay close attention to how your body feels during any physical activity.

Find your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Here's how the numbers look for a 50-year-old:

220 - 50 = 170 maximum heart rate

Target heart rate equals between 102 and 136 beats per minute (60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate of 170).

The American Heart Association tells us that if you can speak or sing easily while exercising, you probably aren't working too hard and can pick up the pace a bit.

Types of Heart Rate Monitors

Heart rate monitors range from basic models that will tell you what your heart rate is with the push of a button, to high tech instruments that provide continuous heart rate monitoring during your entire workout, display the number of calories burned and recall your heart rates from prior sessions. Others can even display altitude climbed while bicycling.

Simple models begin around $35. Polar offers a wide array of models helpful for beginners through competitive athletes, some of which come with software for planning fitness regimens.

Most monitors also come with chest straps that some people believe are more accurate and more convenient because you don't have to stop exercising to find out your heart rate.

Do It Yourself

You can also find your heart rate on your own while exercising. Place a finger—not your thumb because it has its own pulse—on your carotid artery that runs vertically along both sides of your neck. Count the beats you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by six to get your heart rate per minute.

One of the easiest ways to reach your fitness goals is to track your heart rate.


Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. The workout program, which offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga and cardio box movements, has positively affected millions of people. For more information go to or call (800) FIT-IS-IT.

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