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Aerobic Training

Cardiovascular aerobic fitness training is considered by many, to be the most important area of physical fitness.

Heart disease, the number one killer in our society, can be greatly reduced by those who exercise both their heart and lungs (aerobic system) on a regular basis.

The easy way to decide if you're working too hard, or in the wrong training zone, is the talk test. If you can hold a conversation easily, then you are probably working too easy - if you can't say a couple of words, you may be working too hard.

What factors affect aerobic training?

Frequency, duration and intensity. Frequency refers to how often you perform aerobic activity, duration refers to the time spent at each session, and intensity refers to the percentage of your maximum heart rate or heart rate reserve at which you work.

How often should I train? How hard? For how long?

Most experts believe that 3-5 times per week for a duration of 20-60 minutes at 60-90% of age specific maximal heart rate or 50-85% of VO2max (heart rate reserve).


How do I determine my target heart rate?

The general formula for the average person is 220 - age X 60% and X 90% of HRmax. For example, a 30 year old would calculate his target zone using the above formula: 220-30=190. 190x0.60=114 and 190x0.90=171. This individual would try to keep his heart rate between 114 (low end) and 171 (high end) beats per minute.

The Karvonen Formula calculates your heart rate reserve range. To calculate it, take your pulse for one minute on three successive mornings upon waking up. (We will be using the case of a 30 year old male whose resting pulse was 69,70 and 71 i.e. an average of 70 over the 3 days.)

Calculate target heart rate by subtracting your age from 220


Subtract your average resting heart rate from target heart rate


The lower boundary of the percentage range is 50% of this plus your resting heart rate [(120 x 0.5) + 70 = 130]. The higher boundary is 85% plus your RHR [(120 x 0.85) + 70 =172]. Using the Karvonen Formula for percentage of heart rate reserve, this 30 year old man should be working between 130 and 172 BPM.

The above two formulas are only guidelines, as some people may be 30 beats above their predicted maximum heart rate. Again on the other end of the scale some people can be 20 beats below, and will find it impossible to reach their so-called target zone.

The best way if you are interested is to ask a qualified person who will monitor both you and your heart under exercise, and from this establish what your target zones should be.

It is important to note that the deviation in both the age specific formula and the Karvonen formula is due to the estimation of HRmax. If you have an actual HRmax from a graded exercise test, it will be more accurate.

Another important factor is that various equipment will generate different results, i.e. running and cycling.

Don't worry if you don't have a (Heart Rate Monitor), the Borg scale of perceived exertion is another way of determining how hard you are working.

Using your own subjective Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) on a scale of 6-20 or a scale of 0-10, you determine how hard you *feel* you are working.

Original Scale

Revised Scale

0 - Nothing at all
7- Very, very light 0.5 - Very, very weak
8 1 - Very weak
9 - Very light 2 - Weak
10 3 - Moderate
11 - Fairly light  4 - Somewhat strong
12  5 - Strong
13 - Somewhat hard 6
14  7 - Very strong
15 - Hard  8
16 9 - Very, very strong
17 - Very hard  10 - * Maximal
18 -
19 - Very, very hard -
20  -* Maximal  -

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