The older we get, the more important our cardiovascular health. When it comes to aerobic training, how you exercise is just as important as how often you exercise. The heart rate zone model is a popular approach to monitoring your endurance training. There are five heart rate zones ranging from 1 being low intensity to 5 being maximal effort. In this article, we delve into the benefits of Zone 2 HR training.
What Is Heart Rate Zone 2?
Zone 2 puts your heart rate at 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate (HR max). While an estimation, a widely used equation to find your HR max is 200 minus your age.
Here’s an example of how to heart rate max and zone 2 for a 40-year-old…
HR max = 220 – 40 = 180 beats per minute (bpm)
Zone 2 = 60-70% of HR max = 108-126 bpm
You should be able to sustain the activity for at least 30 minutes without straining yourself. Breathing feels smooth and you can carry on a conversation.
Types of Zone 2 Exercises
The exercises that you can perform to get your heart rate into Zone 2 will depend on your fitness level. Common Zone 2 exercises include walking at a brisk pace, jogging, swimming, and steady-state cycling.
Athletes often perform sport-specific drills to develop conditioning and muscle memory simultaneously. These include dribbling a basketball, hitting tennis balls with a partner, and shadowboxing. You can pick any exercise you like that will keep you in this zone.
The Benefits of Zone 2 HR Training
While it may not be the most exciting zone to train in, studies show that exercising in Zone 2 produces many benefits for cardiovascular health and energy efficiency not achieved in the other heart rate zones.
Better Glycogen Utilization
Zone 2 training enhances mitochondria’s function, which powers the cells in the body, utilizing fat as the primary energy source. By using fat as energy, the body can conserve more glycogen, which is the type of energy we use for high-intensity work and explosive movements. As a result, the gains from Zone 2 training will allow you to perform better in the higher zones of effort. This is why even world-class athletes dedicate a significant portion of their time to Zone 2 training.
Better Lactate Clearance
Because Zone 2 training develops Type 1 muscle fibers and improves the body’s ability to flush out lactate. When the body burns glucose to perform high-intensity movements, lactate forms. The more lactate that builds up, the less work the muscle can perform. Zone 2 training enhances Type 1 muscle fibers’ ability to scoop up the lactate for reuse by the mitochondria.
Better Heart Health
Aerobic exercise in Zone 2 increases the amount of blood the heart can pump out, making you feel more energized when in motion and more relaxed when at rest. On the same token, the body can transport oxygen more efficiently and at a greater volume (VO2 max) than before. You’ll also be able to recover more quickly from higher-intensity intervals.
Zone 2 training primes your body for recovery, promoting the rebuild rather than the breakdown of muscles. This is why many high-intensity athletes like powerlifters include steady-state training into their weekly routines.
Accessible for Most People
Zone 2 is great because most people can consistently train in this manner throughout their lifetime with little risk of injury. You don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy all the cardiovascular benefits of steady aerobic training.
The best exercise regimen is the one that you enjoy and can stick to. What works wonders for one person may not be right for you. Safety comes first. Experiment with different exercises and adapt your routine to your goals and fitness level. By training at varying heart rate zones, you can maximize your overall fitness. If you have existing health issues, consult your doctor before performing strenuous physical activity.