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MET A unit of measure that represents the body’s resting metabolic rate that is, the energy requirement of the body at rest.
To gain fitness benefits, the young woman in our example would have to exercise at an intensity that raises her heart rate to between 131 and 181 bpm.
An alternative method for calculating target heart rate zone uses heart rate reserve, the difference between maximum heart rate and resting heart rate. Using this method, target heart rate is equal to resting heart rate plus between 50% (40% for very unfit people) and 85% of heart rate reserve. Although some people (particularly those with very low levels of fitness) will obtain more accurate results using this more complex method, both methods provide reasonable estimates of an appropriate target heart rate zone. Lab 3.2 gives formulas for both methods of calculating target heart rate.
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If you have been sedentary, start by exercising at the lower end of your target heart rate zone (65% of maximum heart rate or 50% of heart rate reserve) for at least four-six weeks. Exercising closer to the top of the range can cause fast and significant gains in maximal oxygen consumption, but you may increase your risk of injury and overtraining. You can achieve significant health benefits by exercising at the bottom of your target zone, so don’t feel pressure to exercise at an unnecessarily intense level. If you exercise at a lower intensity, you can increase the duration or frequency of training to obtain as much benefit to your health, as long as you are above the 65% training threshold. For people with a very low initial level of fitness, a lower training intensity of 55-64% of maximum heart rate or 40-49% of heart rate reserve may be sufficient to achieve improvements in maximal oxygen consumption, especially at the start of an exercise program. Intensities of 70-85% of maximum heart rate are appropriate for average individuals.
By monitoring your heart rate, you will always know if you are working hard enough to improve, not hard enough, or too hard. As your program progresses and your fitness improves, you will need to jog, cycle, or walk faster to reach your target heart rate zone. To monitor your heart rate during exercise, count your pulse while you’re still moving or immediately after you stop exercising. Count beats for 10 seconds, then multiply that number by 6 to see if your heart rate is in your target zone. Table 3.2 shows target heart rate ranges and 10-second counts based on the maximum heart rate formula.
METs One way scientists describe fitness is in terms of the capacity to increase metabolism (energy usage level) above rest. Scientists use METs to measure the metabolic cost of an exercise. One MET represents the body’s resting metabolic rate that is, the energy or calorie requirement of the body at rest. Exercise intensity is expressed in multiples of resting metabolic rate. For example, an exercise intensity of 2 METs is twice the resting metabolic rate.
METs are used to describe exercise intensities for occupational activities and exercise programs. Exercise intensities of less than 3-4 METs are considered low. Household chores and most industrial jobs fall into this category. Exercise at these intensities does not improve fitness for most people, but it will improve fitness for people with low physical capacities. Activities that increase metabolism by 6-8 METs are classified as moderate-intensity exercises and are suitable
Target heart rates lower than those shown here are appropriate for individuals with a very low initial level of fitness. Ranges are based on the following formula: target heart rate = 0.65 to 0.90 of maximum heart rate, assuming maximum heart rate = 220 – age.
Experienced exercisers may use this subjective scale to estimate how near they are to their target heart rate zone.
Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishing Corporation. With kind permission of Springer Science and Business Media and the author.
METs are intended to be only an approximation of exercise intensity. Skill, body weight, body fat, and environment affect the accuracy of METs. As a practical matter, however, we can disregard these limitations. METs are a good way to express exercise intensity because this system is easy for people to remember and apply.
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