The fat burning zone is often referenced, and yes it does exist, but most people don’t understand exactly what this means. This concept is that more fat is burned at a lower intensity of training, roughly 60-70% of your max heart rate vs. a higher intensity of training. This is based off of percentages. If you are training at a lower intensity, burning 50% of calories from fat and at a higher intensity burning 35% of fat, part of the puzzle is missing. This piece shows that at a higher intensity, you burn more calories overall.
High intensity training is not always appropriate for everyone for various reasons. Maybe they are new to exercise, recovering from injuries, previous health conditions, etc. For those people able to incorporate high intensity exercise, interval training is a great way to start. Having both low intensity and high intensity exercises in your exercise program is beneficial for your body. Interval training is when you alternate between at least two activities, changing different rates of speed, degree of effort, etc. Each person has a different level which they are able work at. Finding the target heart rate is a good way to monitor the level of effort.
Beginner: This level would appropriate be anyone new to exercise or recovering from injuries. Starting with lower intensity exercise (roughly 60% heart rate) is a good way to ease your body into a routine. Incorporate higher intensity exercise very little the first 2 weeks. At this level, the higher intensity might only be 70-75% of your heart rate. The intervals will change over time, but an example would be to start with 4 min low intensity, 1 min high intensity and repeat 2-4 times.
Intermediate: This level would be for anyone who has been exercising for a while and ready to step up their program. This interval program would start with a lower intensity (roughly 60% heart rate) and a higher intensity of 80%. Maintain the lower intensity for 2 min and the higher for 1 min. This can be repeated 5 to 10 times.
Advanced: This level would be more for athletes. The interval program would start at lower intensity of 70% and a higher intensity of 90-100% of heart rate max. Maintain 1 min low intensity and 1 min high intensity. This can be repeated 10-15 times. Depending on the type of athlete these ratios will change.
Each person has their own limits and should listen to their body. These are guidelines to interval training, but not the only way to do it. The exercise physiologists at Peak Performance would be happy to set you up with a program right for you.
By Corynne Pereira