Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

A Minimalist Approach to Training Exercisers to Estimate and Control Heart Rate

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

A Minimalist Approach to Training Exercisers to Estimate and Control Heart Rate

Article excerpt

Physical activities that challenge skeletal-muscular, cardiopulmonary, and vascular systems to function significantly above resting or baseline levels induce adaptations that, in most people, can increase the range of those physiological functions. For example, aerobic training improves central and peripheral blood flow and enhances muscular energy generation (Wilmore, Costill, & Kenney, 2008). Fitness level and athletic performance generally improve as athletes adapt over time to progressively increasing training loads (Fry, Morton, & Keast, 1992). Weight and body composition may also improve secondary to metabolic expenditure, especially if balanced with dietary and other lifestyle changes (Garber et al., 2011). The process of promoting physiological adaptations toward improved functioning and better health is predicated on a principle of periodization, wherein episodes of physiological challenge are followed by rest in alternating cycles progressively advancing fitness over time (Wilmore, Costill, & Kenney, 2008).

One challenge to facilitating the healthy adaptations resulting from periodized training is monitoring the status of physiological systems. While measurements of maximum oxygen utilization (VO, max) and lactic acid tolerance are among the better laboratory based methods for evaluating aerobic fitness, they are disruptive and invasive. Their high internal validity is offset by limited applicability. However, more widespread application and higher external validity can be gained by less invasive alternatives such as monitoring subjective ratings of perceived exertion (Borg, 1998) or heart-rate (HR; Banister, 1991; Edwards, 1993). Direct measurements of HR or oxygen uptake during exercise are recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for regulating exercise intensity (Garber et al., 2011). The use of HR for exercise regulation is the focus of the present study.

When exercise load is regulated by pulse counts or electronic HR monitoring, myriad exercise benefits are found to correlate with select HR elevation ranges. Target HR values are typically based on individualized maximum heart rate ([HR.sub.max]), which can be precisely evaluated during a treadmill stress test but adequately approximated by the equation; 220--age in years. Based on this formula, exercise at 50% to 85% of [HR.sub.max] is recognized by the American Heart Association (AHA; 2013) as the optimal range for attaining cardiovascular benefits. Similarly, the ACSM recommends exercise in the 55/65% to 90% [HR.sub.max] range to benefit both cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition (Pollock, Gaesser, Butcher, Despres, Dishman, Franklin, & Garber, 1998). With respect to body composition and weight loss, the maximum rate of fat oxidation is generally estimated to lie between 60.2% and 80.0% of [HR.sub.max] (Carey, 2009), although the greater caloric expenditure of higher intensity aerobic exercise exceeds any benefits of restricting activity to lower values within this range (Wilmore, Costill, & Kenney, 2008).

In addition to the established physiological gains of exercise targeting specific ranges of HR elevation, psychological benefits may also be obtained. Significant reductions in anxiety and depression have been associated with both anaerobic exertion (e.g., weight lifting) at 30-50% of [HR.sub.max], and aerobic exercise (e.g., jogging) at 30-70% of [HR.sub.max] (Craft, 1997; Landers & Petruzzello, 1994; North, McCullagh, & Tran, 1990). These data suggest that regulating exercise intensity via HR monitoring can aid in gaining the benefits of activity while avoiding the risks. Inadequate effort can fail to produce the expected benefits of training, while exceeding optimal limits can increase the probability of injury, induce overtraining syndrome, or produce excess discomfort and fatigue that potentially lead to extinction of exercise activity (Armstrong & VanHeest, 2002). …

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