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Exercise – The Fat Burning Zone

Exercise - The Fat Burning Zone

So, you’re trying to lose weight, and are curious to how best to accomplish that goal. And, you also know one of the best ways to accomplish this is through a strong cardio program – and whether it’s on your treadmill, your elliptical trainer, or your exercise bicycle, you may have wondered how you put together a program that actually burns fat!

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you’re working in the “fat burning zone”. It’s easy to assume that the harder you work, the more fat you’ll burn – but, that’s not necessarily the case. Your body actually burns a higher percentage of calories at lower intensities. For example, a 130 pound woman burns calories during exercise in the following fashion:

Low Intensity Workout: 60-65% Mean Heart Rate

Total Calories Burned per minute: 4.86Fat Calories burned per minute: 2.43Total Calories Burned in 30 minutes: 146Total Fat Calories burned in 30 minutes: 73Percentage of Fat Calories burned – 50 %

High Intensity Workout: 80-85% Mean Heart Rate

Total Calories Burned per minute: 6.86Fat Calories burned per minute: 2.7Total Calories Burned in 30 minutes: 206Total Fat Calories burned in 30 minutes: 82Percentage of Fat Calories burned – 39.82 %

From The 24/5 Complete Personal Training Manual, 24 Hour Fitness, 2000

What is Your Target Heart Rate? 

Now, how do you find out what your heart rate should be for the maximum fat burning? Simple. It’s called the Karvonen Formula. First, calculate what your resting heart rate is by counting your heart beat for 10 seconds, and multiply the result by 6. 

Below is an example of the Karvonen formula for a 23 year old person with a resting heart rate of 65 beats per minute:

  • 220 – 23 (age) = 197197 – 65 (resting heart rate) = 132
  • 132 * 65% (low end of heart rate) OR 85% (high end) = 85.8 OR 112.2
  • 85.8 + 65 (resting heart rate) = 150 112.2 + 65 (rhr) = 177
  • The target heart rate zone for this person would be 150 to 177 

For this person to work in his ‘fat burning’ zone, he would need to stay around 150 beats per minute or lower. To work within his ‘cardio’ zone, he would need to work at 150 bpm or higher. 

How Often Should You Exercise? 

When it comes to cardio, it’s up to you and your goals how much you do and how often. For weight loss, most experts suggest 60+ minutes of moderate intensity activity most days during the week. If you’re a beginner, you may need to start at a lower level of exercise. For beginners, you might start with three days of cardio exercise for 20 or more minutes, adding time each week. 

Below is a chart detailing a SAMPLE week of cardio workouts for a person who exercises five days a week. This is simply an example of how to incorporate different types of cardio workouts into a typical week. Modify the workouts according to your own fitness level, time constraints, and likes and dislikes.


  • High Intensity-Duration: 20-30 minutes
  • Alternate 1-min sprint with 2 min walking.Perceived Exertion (PE) sprints: 8-9, walking: 5-6


  • Medium Intensity- Duration: 45-60 minutes
  • Walking or joggingPE: 5-6


  • Low-Medium Intensity – Duration: All day
  • Use a pedometer and try to get 10,000 steps 


  • Medium-High Intensity – Duration: 30-60 minutes
  • Treadmill / Running PE: 5-7



  • Low-Medium Intensity – Duration: 30-60 minutes
  • Walking or aerobics classPE: 4-6

Don’t forget to warm up and cool down for each workout, drink lots of water (take a sip every 15 minutes during your workout), stretch after your workout, and eat a small, well-balance snack an hour or two before you hit the gym.

Bob Lachniet

View posts by Bob Lachniet
Bob Lachniet is the owner of Fitness 4 Home Superstore. He has been in the fitness equipment commercial and retail sales industry for over 25 years and has been owner of Fitness 4 Home Superstore since 2005. Bob truly cares about his customers and wishes to educate them on what is the right piece of fitness equipment for their particular circumstance.
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