Finding the Perfect Exercise Intensity for You

Exercise intensity is the most influential aspect of a workout. It impacts how many calories are burned, how much blood is delivered to muscles, the amount of CO2 removed and what the body uses as its primary fuel source. All that basically means is that the body responds and adapts to the demands placed upon it during exercise.Its important to understand what exercise intensity matches your goals in order to see the results you want. Whether burning fat, strengthening the cardiovascular system or increasing performance is the goal, there is an appropriate intensity to match each.

Lil guy running

Now lets back up and spell everything out.

First, we must calculate Heart Rate Reserve, which is the difference between maximum heart rate and resting heart rate.

To find MAXIMUM heart rate: Take 220-age. So for myself 220-25= 195

To find RESTING heart rate: Measure you pulse while resting for 10 seconds, then multiply this number by 6. My 10 second pulse rate was 13, so my resting heart rate is 78.

Now subtract resting heart rate from maximum heart rate, to get heart rate reserve (HRR). 195-78= 117.

Pretty simple so far. The next step is to get a specific heart rate zone, which depends on exercise intensity and HRR. The percentages on the table reflect a % of HRR. To calculate target heart rate range:

1. Multiply HRR by the % that matches your intensity

2. Add your resting heart rate back on. This is the range your heart rate should be at during exercise.

Now onto the training zones…

Zones Training Goals Exercises Intensity Target HR Range (bpm)
Fat Burning Gets the body pumping blood to muscles, so they can utilize oxygen. Fat is the predominant source of fuel, so this zone is great if fat burning is your goal. Walking, light cycling, NuStep  


(Using myself as an example)





Aerobic Best for cardiovascular fitness. If improving heart health is a goal, this zone is for you! It improves the body’s ability to transport oxygenated blood to muscles and get rid of metabolic waste. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source. Jogging, cycling, swimming, cardio equipment  






Anaerobic Improved performance occurs in this zone. The body is working hard and creating lactic acid as a byproduct. Once the body can no longer remove lactic acid efficiently, anaerobic threshold has been met. Training at this level will increase peak fitness and performance. Sprinting, surges, jumping rope, cycling hard, burpees, bear crawls  




VO2 max/ Maximum effort This zone should only be reached if you are very fit and what to test your exercise capacity. This zone can only be sustained for a short period of time (>30 seconds) because the body is operating in oxygen debt. Training in this zone can increase the amount of fast twitch muscle fibers, speed and overall performance. All out sprint or cycle  




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