The Healthy Heart Walking Workout
Are You Working Hard Enough?
The best way to tell is to measure how fast your heart is beating, either by using a heart-rate monitor or by taking your pulse and doing the simple calculation below (step 2).
Step 1: Find Your Target Heart Rate
You need to do this whether you use a monitor or not. Follow this formula: Calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from the number 220. A 45-year-old woman, for example, has an MHR of 175.
Then, figure the heart-rate range that's right for your workout by multiplying your MHR by both of the following percentages:
50% to 65%
65% to 80%
80% to 100%
If our 45-year-old wanted to do the Moderate Workout, her target heart-rate range would approximate 88 to 114 beats/minute (175 X .50 = 87.5 and 175 X .65 = 113.75). For a simple chart, go to lhj.com/heartrate.
Step 2: Monitor Your Heart Rate
If you don't want to spring for a heart-rate monitor, it's easy to learn how to take your pulse as you walk. Place your index and middle fingers directly under your ear, then slide fingers down until they're under your jawbone and press lightly. Start with zero on the first beat and count for 10 seconds, then multiply by six for an approximation of your heartbeats per minute. Check your pulse several times per walk.
Alternative: The Talk Test If counting seems like too much work, there's a simpler way to test yourself. If you can comfortably carry on a short conversation as you walk, either moderately or vigorously (no gasping for breath), you're walking at the correct intensity for your fitness level. But if you can easily talk at length, you need to move faster.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, February 2009.