Are You Exercising Hard Enough?
BY: Karen Asp
I’m a fan of heart rate monitors. I train with one regularly, largely because it motivates me and keeps me on track with my fitness goals. If you do too, you should know that the formula we've all been using to measure exercise intensity (subtract your age from 220 then multiply by a certain percentage) may skew high when it comes to women.
According to a new study from Northwestern University, a more accurate way to calculate maximum heart rate for women is to subtract 88 percent of your age from 206 (men should keep using the old formula). On the plus side, women don’t have to sweat as hard because the numbers with the new formula are lower.
But what if all this number-crunching leaves you more tired than your workout? Or maybe you don't have a heart rate monitor and don't want to buy one. The good news is there's a more convenient way to measure workout intensity that works just as well for most exercisers. It's called rating of perceived exertion or RPE. Here's how it works: As you exercise, simply ask yourself how hard you think you're working on a scale of zero to 10, where zero is sitting in a chair and 10 is all-out exertion.
- Moderate-intensity exercise feels around a three
- For a high-intensity workout, shoot for a five or above
The great thing about RPE is that it requires no equipment -- and you don’t have to stop during your workout to check your intensity. Plus it helps you tune into your body better.
So the next time you exercise, give RPE a try. I guarantee it'll help you sweat more effectively … and have more fun while you're at it.
Karen Asp is a fitness and health writer and a certified personal trainer who writes for numerous publications, including SELF, Glamour, Women’s Health, Family Circle, Prevention, Redbook and Men’s Fitness. Karen is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.