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Learn how to exercise smarter, not harder

Published: Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 11:04 a.m. CDT

(BPT) - Contrary to what most people believe about being active, it's not only about how many times you visit your health club each week or even what you do when you're there. Instead, you must understand how your body responds to a variety of workout intensities and train your body to be metabolically flexible while using fat and carbohydrates at the right times during exercise. Teaching your body how to use these fuels at the right times during exercise helps get the most out of your exercise program, thus working smarter rather than harder.

But how do you do this? Many people use 220 minus their age to calculate maximum heart rate in beats per minute and then do not surpass this heart rate during exercise. Unfortunately, formulas such as this one and popular heart rate training guide charts you might see at most typical gyms don't apply to most people.

That's why Life Time — The Healthy Way of Life Company has developed a scientifically supported method of monitoring intensity during exercise. The company's personalized Active Metabolic Assessment helps individuals find their personalized heart rate zones and calorie burn rate within each zone.

"Completing an assessment such as the Active Metabolic Assessment identifies the optimal heart rate zones where your workouts are most effective. It measures key cardiovascular training markers, including anaerobic threshold, aerobic base and VO2 max, and lets you know how many calories you burn during exercise to develop a customized cardio plan designed just for you," says Jen Keskey, national program manager for assessments and devices at Life Time. "By understanding your own unique heart rate zones, you can change how your metabolism functions and burns fat and sugar, ultimately leading to greater results (usually in less time) — whether trying to lose weight or training for an athletic event."

Heart rate zones are very unique, just as how an individual responds to different exercise intensities is, Keskey says. "The results we see from people who have an assessment and train according to their own unique program prove results time after time. Not only will you see changes in how your body responds relative to different exercise intensities but you can track your progress and calorie burn over time to better manage your workout time."

Once people know their heart rate zones, using a heart rate strap is key. However with the fitness technology industry saturated with heart rate monitors, straps and devices, monitoring and getting connected to your heart rate can be a daunting task.

Life Time has introduced a new, exclusive heart rate training system called LT Connect, which includes an LT Connect Mobile app that allows members to track heart rate zones, workouts, distance and map via GPS all while staying connected to Life Time experts whether in the club working out on a piece of cardio equipment or running around their neighborhood. The app syncs directly with assessments such as the Active Metabolic Assessment so users can train using their customized heart rate training plan in base, interval, peak and freeflow workouts. It also allows for coach-customized workouts to be uploaded based on your weekly workout schedule and your goals.

So what does all of this mean? Many, upon an initial assessment, only burn fat efficiently up to a heart rate around the top of zone three (otherwise known as Anaerobic Threshold or AT). At intensities beyond AT the activity becomes too hard to fuel with fat as the main fuel source and instead the body will use mostly stored carbohydrates to complete the work.

"Heart rate training can condition the body's ability to prefer a certain type of fuel, regardless of the total number of calories burned in the workout," says Keskey. "Once we find your zones, the methods are fairly simple."

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