It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the #1 reason the majority of people give for beginning an exercise program is weight loss with a heart health coming in second. However, it may surprise you to know that statistics show over 50% of those individuals beginning a new exercise program will not stick with it more than 6 months. Why? The most common reason is that their expectations were not met.
Heart rate training has been used successfully by elite athletes for decades. With the rise of fitness trackers and sports watches on the market, heart rate training is now possible for not only the moderately experienced athlete but beginners as well.
If you’re a seasoned runner, cyclist and/or fitness enthusiast, you already know the importance and benefits of heart rate training. Therefore; this post is geared more for those individuals who are just beginning their fitness journey, unfamiliar with heart rate training and are focused on losing weight.
What is Heart Rate Training and how is it useful for weight loss?
In its simplest explanation, heart rate training is setting zones of upper and lower intensities for effort during a workout based on an individuals maximum and resting heart rates. When you exercise at 40 – 85% of your maximum heart rate, you are considered to be in an ‘aerobic’ state which targets your heart and circulatory system. Aerobic exercises are more effective at using fat stores to burn calories which ultimately leads to weight loss. When you train above 85% of your maximum heart rate, you are considered to be in an ‘anaerobic’ state which pushes your muscles to work at above-average resistance levels and ultimately leads to muscle strength and growth. Exercising in an aerobic state allows you to workout longer before fatiguing. The longer you are working out aerobically, the longer your body is burning fat.
How to Heart Rate Train?
The folks at Heart Zones, Inc. are not only experts on the subject, but are passionate about educating and helping others achieve their fitness goals using heart rate zones. They use two main methods of heart rate training, Zoning and Threshold. Zoning is the most basic, with the Threshold method building upon it. Let’s talk a little bit about the Zoning method.
The Blue zone is the easiest of the 3 zones, but it is a great zone for weight loss. Training in the Blue zone helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body fat. The Blue zone improves overall health, though it doesn’t do a lot to increase aerobic capacity. In this heart rate zone you can talk easily and experience little to no discomfort.
The Yellow zone is the transition zone between the easy Blue zone and the vigorous Red zone. Benefits for Yellow zone training include improved aerobic capacity, even more calories burned, gains in muscle mass, an increase in the number and size of blood vessels and coronary arteries and an increase in the strength of your heart. Working out in the Yellow zone provides not only weight loss, but an increase in muscle and heart strength.
The Red zone is a hot and hard effort and is also known as the anaerobic threshold. Training in the Red zone burns the most calories and is an important zone for improvements in athletic performance. In the Red zone efforts cannot be maintained for more than 30 minutes and you will not be able to maintain a conversation. The top heart rate of the Red zone is your maximum heart rate or the highest heart rate that you can ever reach.
Training in different zones creates different health effects that can only be derived by training in that particular zone. Red zone workouts, for example, don’t create Yellow or Blue zone results.
The important thing to remember about these zones is that they are not static – they change with changes in fitness. As you gain in fitness, your resting heart rate will lower and as a result your thresholds between zones will change. It will require more effort to reach a higher heart rate. However, on the flip side, your maximum heart rate is mostly biologically determined and not nearly as closely related to age as once thought. Hence, the reason why Heart Zones does not adhere to the ‘220 minus age’ calculation for max HR.
Why the Blink 3.0?
Well, I’m glad you asked! The Blink 3.0 is a heart rate monitor/sensor that flashes 3 zone colors. It includes a programmable one-button sensor, one large and one small elastic armband, and one USB charger. The Blink 3.0 heart rate sensor/monitor manages heart rate, calories burned, distance, pace, and more. It also works seamlessly with any iPhone or droid app. It’s easier to put on and more comfortable than bulky chest strap monitor, and it works with a wide array of devices from smartphones to tablets, fitness equipment to smart watches and other devices that support Bluetooth Smart or ANT+ heart rate data. It works with most popular fitness apps and has extended wireless range up to 100 feet. The Blink 3.0 has two optical sensor lights – green for pale skin color and yellow for darker skin color for enhanced accuracy – the only one of its kind that allows superior measurement with all skin tones.
- No chest strap required
- Can be worn on your forearm or upper arm
- Connects with the majority of fitness and health apps
- 8 hr battery life
- Very accurate
- 100 ft Bluetooth range
- Sweatproof and waterproof up to 10-20 meters
- Color choices: black, blue, pink and yellow
- FREE Heart Zones Training app (iPhone) named Heart Zones Training
- Programmable for your own personal 3 heart rate zones. (with the specific Heart Zones app)
- It flashes colors that match the 3 zones for your ZONING or Threshold workout: Blue-Easy, Purple-Moderate, and Red-Hard. (with the specific Heart Zones app)
- Heart Zones specific app is currently available on iPhone only. Android users can use the Blink with most health and fitness apps but will not be able to program your own personal heart rate zones via the Heart Zones app
- I, personally, found that when really sweaty the band slides down from the forearm position. However, moving the band to the upper arm solves this problem.
- No instant HR readout …you must connect to an app
Is it Accurate?
I’ve been using the Heart Zones Blink 3.0 for about a month now. I’ve used it in conjunction with a couple of other devices to test its accuracy. Generally, I think most athletes and medical professionals would agree that the chest strap HR monitors are considered to be the most accurate. With this in mind, I used my Polar chest strap paired with the Map my Ride app (on the right) in addition to the Blink3.0 paired with my Samsung fitness app (S Health on the left) for one of my bike rides. As you can see, both the avg HR (2 bpm difference) and the max HR (3 bpm difference) for both devices were very close to one another.
I was also curious how the Blink 3.0 would compare with my Samsung Gear 2 smart watch since wrist based HR monitors have, for the most part, not been touted as being the most accurate. In this test, the Blink was paired with the Map my Ride app (on the right) and my smart watch was paired with its dedicated app, SHealth (on the left). Once again, I was impressed at how close both the avg HR (1 bpm difference) and max HR (3 bpm difference) values were.
My next experiment was to see how the Blink HR monitor compared with the HR sensors on cardio equipment at my local gym. For this test, I used the LifeFitness brand elliptical keeping my hands on the hand sensors at all times in order to get a consistent heart rate reading. The Blink was paired once again with my Samsung Health app. I could only compare the avg HR value as this particular LifeFitness elliptical does not give the max HR value. As you can see below, there was a much greater difference between these two readings, with the Blink recording avg HR at 124 bpm while the LifeFitness recorded 132 bpm (8 bpm difference).
In my opinion, the Heart Zones Blink 3.0 is as accurate as any HR monitor, designed for fitness enthusiasts and recreational athletes, can be. I have long been skeptical of the accuracy of the built-in heart rate sensors on most fitness equipment and this experiment has only served to strengthen my opinion.
However, with that being said, I would like to point out that despite the greater difference in HR readings between the Blink and the LifeFitness reading, it is still better than not monitoring your HR at all, especially when you are trying to track calories burned for weight loss goals. Here’s why. When you begin a workout on the treadmill, stair climber, elliptical or stationary bike, you are prompted to input your age, weight and maybe even gender. The computer takes these values and puts them into a basic formula to calculate ‘calories burned’. This formula is not personalized just for you. It does not know how fit you are, what your resting heart rate is and what your maximum heart rate is. These calculations basically put everyone in the same box which often times leads to over estimations of calories burned. Therefore, you think you’ve burned way more calories than you actually did so you, in turn, consume more calories than you should and guess what happens next? That’s right! You get frustrated because you aren’t losing weight or even worse …you may actually gain a few.
For an example, I took my Blink HR monitor to an indoor cycling class. This was a 50 minute class with a lot of resistance (hill climbing). The Blink, taking into consideration my HR, recorded calories burned around 350 while the computer on the Spin bike, which had no HR monitor paired to it all, recorded calories burned at 443 based simply on my age and weight. That’s almost 150 calories difference!
This is why, not only using a heart rate monitor, but also tracking your HR and exercising in different zones is so vitally important for successful weight loss and fitness gains.
After a month of use, I found the Blink 3.0 to be comfortable, user friendly and accurate. The Heart Zones Blink 3.0 is a great way to get you on track to meeting all of your fitness goals!
While the opinions stated in the blog post are strictly my own, as a Heart Zones, Inc. ambassador, I received the Blink 3.0 free of charge and was asked to use it, then write a review.
I’m linking up with Marcia, Erika and Patty for their Tuesdays on the Run link. I went off topic this week, but if you’re looking for some great ideas on how to get control on the masses of fitness clothing and equipment you’ve accumulated, then pop over and check out these posts ….there’s some great ideas just waiting for you! I’m taking notes to put into practice when I finally get settled in our ‘forever’ home!