Calories Burned = Fat Burned = Weight Loss
Low Intensity Workout vs. High Intensity Workouts

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Low Intensity Workout vs. High Intensity Workouts

Let’s solve the debate on low intensity vs. high intensity workouts. There are many conflicting statement about how long and how hard you need to exercise in order to lose weight.

A high intensity workout, which is defined as exercises which push your heart rate up to 75% of its maximum or more, is infinitely better. High intensity workouts have been proven to increase metabolism and burn more calories. In fact, high intensity burns 9 times more fat per each calorie burn during exercise. The reality is that the activity that expends the greatest amount of total calories will lead to the most amount of fat burned! Best of all, the benefits become evident in a matter of weeks! High intensity exercise it's not for beginners or those with certain health problems.

American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand - The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardio respiratory and muscular fitness, and flexibility in healthy adults, Med. Science. Sports Exercise., Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 975-991, 1998:

"The combination of frequency, intensity, and duration of chronic exercise has been found to be effective for producing a training effect. The interaction of these factors provide the overload stimulus. In general, the lower the stimulus the lower the training effect, and the greater the stimulus the greater the effect. As a result of specificity of training and the need for maintaining muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility of the major muscle groups, a well-rounded training program including aerobic and resistance training, and flexibility exercises is recommended. Although age in itself is not a limiting factor to exercise training, a more gradual approach in applying the prescription at older ages seems prudent. . ."

The reality is that low intensity exercise burns fewer calories. To achieve the same benefits of a high intensity workout, you are going to have to exercise longer. So, if you are going easy with your exercise, your are going to have to exercise longer!


Maximum Heart Rate (MHR or max HR)

Your maximum heart rate is a specific number, the maximum number of contractions per minute that your heart can make or the highest number of times a heart can beat in a minute of exercising, usually expressed as beats per minute.

It is very easy to determine an estimate of your maximum heart rate.


How to determine you Target Heart Rate Zone

MHR = maximum heart rate
bpm = beats per minute

30 year-old woman

40 year-old woman

50 year-old woman

60 year-old woman


Find your maximum heart rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from 220.

220 - 30 = 190 MHR

220 - 40 = 180 MHR

220 - 50 = 170 MHR

220 - 60 = 160 MHR


Next multiple (MHR) by 0.60 = lower end of the target heart rate zone.

190 x .60 - 114 bpm

180 x 0.60 = 108 bpm

170 x .60 = 102 bpm

160 x .60 = 96 bpm





Next multiply (MHR) by 0.90 = upper end of the target heart rate zone.

190 x .90 = 171 bpm

180 x 0.90 = 162 bpm

170 x .90 = 153 bpm

160 x .90 = 144 bpm


Target heart rate zone

114 to 171 bpm

108 to 162 bpm

102 to 153 bpm

96 to 144 bpm

The two numbers above represent the target heart rate zone. You should strive to stay between these two numbers during your workout.

NOTE: These formulas apply only to adults. Remember the above example is only an estimate. If you want an adequate test and exercise screening, invest in a Max HR test performed by an Exercise Test Technologist, certified by the ACSM, at a qualified facility.



Low Intensity Workout vs. High Intensity Workouts

Time is definitely an issue when exercising. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time exercising, remember that you can get the more results in a shorter period of time by increasing the intensity of your workout. No more spending hours in the gym!

So start exercising now! The biggest risk in exercise is not starting! Always remember to warm up slowly and to cool down gradually. Push yourself a little harder to reach a new level of fitness. Increase the intensity of your workout and you will immediately find yourself burning more calories in the same amount of time. Burn as many calories as possible when you workout.

Low Intensity Workout vs. High Intensity Workouts

Low Intensity Workout: 

50% MHR = 7 calories per minute

90% of those calories are burning fat tissue


High Intensity Workout:

75% MHR = 14 calories per minute

60% of those calories are burning fat tissue


From the above figures, it appears that you burn more fat tissue when working at a lower intensity (90% vs. 60% from fat tissue), but these numbers are misleading. 


Lets look at them another way:


Low Intensity Workout:
90% x 7 calories per minute = 6.30 fat calories burned per minute

High Intensity Workout:
60% x 14 calories per minute = 8.40 fat calories burned per minute

After you do the math, you can see that you burn a greater amount of fat tissue calories from a high intensity workout than a low intensity workout (8.4 vs. 6.3 calories burned per minute).


The American College of Sports Medicine suggests a workout should expend 300 calories in order to be deemed a fat-loss workout.  This is equivalent to about three miles of jogging or power walking, or 30 minutes of stepping.

Now, I’m not saying that low intensity workouts are bad. Low intensity exercises are beneficial for warming up and cooling down, before and after high intensity phases. Low intensity exercises are also good for the elderly, anyone recovering from an illness or injury, someone who is significantly overweight and out of shape, or someone who is just beginning to workout.

An excellent approach to your training is to mix intensities. Sometimes you go easy and long, and other times you go hard and fast.


Important to remember or my Disclaimer - never workout more than you are in shape to do. Higher intensity workouts should be reserved for those who are already physically fit or have at least been exercising regularly for at least a few months.


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