Feature Archive

Keeping Pace with Your Heart

Heart monitors make it easier to get an efficient workout.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson

As an indoor cycling instructor, Lisa Lewis knows when a student is overdoing it. The exhaustion on a student's face says it all: The rest of the evening will include a big plate of pasta and an early bedtime.

Lewis and her colleagues at Gorilla Sports in San Francisco were seeing the "big plate of pasta look" all too often. That's when they decided to hold a workshop for indoor cycling students, to teach them about heart rate training and the use of cardio monitors, the latest high-tech gizmo allowing everyone from the fitness novice to the weekend triathelete to get a better, more efficient aerobic workout.

"I think it was really enlightening," says Lewis. "People realized that maybe they didn't need to work so hard." Instead of being worn out, many indoor cyclists reported feeling energized and refreshed after the class.

Tailoring Your Workout

Fitness experts say that to maximize the benefit of a cardiovascular workout, a person should raise his or her heart rate to between 50 and 70 percent of its maximum rate. The maximum number of beats per minute is usually estimated to be 220 minus the person's age. If you work too far below that level, your heart isn't getting the challenge it needs to get stronger. But if the heart is worked too hard, the body begins burning stored calories in a way that burns less fat and relies more on energy stored in muscle tissue.