Fat Burning Heart Rate 

Engaging in regular exercise and eating a healthy diet is the best way to lose weight. During your physical activities, keep an eye on your heart rate to gauge the intensity of your workout. In order to burn fat, aim for your target heart rate zone which is at least 50 percent of your maximum heart rate. Our bodies tend to burn larger percentages of fat at a moderate rate of intensity compared to more vigorous exercise, according to the American Council on Exercise. Keeping a higher intensity rate will help you to burn more calories overall.

Maximum Heart Rate

In order to know if you are exercising at the right pace you need to know your maximum heart rate (MHR) and your correct training zone. To figure out your maximum heart rate subtract your age from the number 220 (for men) or 226 (for women). Use the chart below to figure out your training zone and multiply that by your maximum heart rate to figure out your target heart rate (THR). You can also use what is called the Karvonen Method but you need to know your resting heart rate and your training zone to use this calculation correctly.

A stress test using a treadmill and administered by a professional is the most accurate way to figure out your target heart rate. For those that are over the age of 35, have excess weight and have been inactive for quite a while should consider clinical testing. This kind of testing is especially recommended for anyone matching this criteria who also has a history of heart disease in their family.

Measuring Your Heart Rate

Often you might see people at the gym wearing heart rate monitors (HRM). This is the easiest and most accurate way of checking your heart rate as these monitors digitally read your pulse throughout your workout. If you do not have a heart rate monitor of your own, there are other methods you can use to determine heart rate.

The carotid artery in your neck is the best area to feel your pulse and calculate your heart rate on your own. Place the index finger on the side of the neck between your collarbone and jaw line. You can either count the number of beats you feel for full sixty seconds or you can count them for 6 seconds and then add a zero at the end. For example, if you feel your pulse 15 times in 6 seconds that means your heart rate is at 150. You can also count for 15 seconds and quardruple the numbers, or 30 seconds and double the numbers for an accurate rate. Counting for a full 60 seconds is a more accurate measurement than any other non-mechanical method.

Heart rate can also be checked by pressing two fingers lightly onto the radial artery in your wrist. Use the same 60-second count as with the carotid artery.

Fat Burning Heart Rate

In order to continuously shed pounds each week you need to burn more calories in a day than you are consuming. Aim for 50 to 80 percent of your MHR during your workouts to burn fat quickly and lose pounds. The greater the exertion you apply the more calories you will burn overall but remember, consistent exercise is what will burn fat, not sporadic exercise.

Use this chart to figure out your training zone for optimum fat burning.

Training Zone

Training Level

Heart Rate

Healthy Heart Zone

Warm Up

50- 60% of your MHR

Fitness Zone

Fat Burning

60- 70% of your MHR

Aerobic Zone

Endurance Training

70- 80% of your MHR

Anaerobic Zone

Performance Training

80- 90% of your MHR

Red Line

Maximum Effort

90- 100% of your MHR

Tips for Fat Burning and Heart Rate

Fat Burning for Weight Loss

One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. How much you burn depends mostly on your weight, activity levels, age, gender and intensity of exercise. An active person can burn around 511 calories per hour doing higher intensity aerobic and cardio exercises. Generally those who weigh more will burn more calories per hour as they have more fat on their bodies to burn. To really burn fat choose an activity you thoroughly enjoy and aim for at least 150 minutes of that exercise per week.

Recommended Heart Rate Training

For best results check your heart rate several times during exercise.

  1. Pick your cardio of choice (elliptical, treadmill, bike, rowing machine, swimming, running or power walking) and several times during the exercise, estimate your maximum heart rate using the formula described in "Maximum Heart Rate"
  2. Warm up for 10 minutes at a low intensity (never jump right into a hard effort!).
  3. After you are warmed up, increase your intensity until you're sprinting at 90 percent of your max heart rate. Continue at sprint pace for 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Return to a low intensity until your heart rate drops to about 120 beats per minute. Depending on your fitness level and age, this will take 2-4 minutes.
  5. Do another 20- to 30-second sprint effort at 90%, followed by another round of low-intensity active recovery. Aim for 6-8 intervals total. Interval training is the most effective fat-burning activity!
  6. Be sure to cool down at a very low intensity (easy walking speed) for at 5-10 minutes before stopping completely and stretch gently to prevent soreness.

Considerations for Heart Rate Training

Those who are obese, have heart problems or other health issues need to speak to their doctor before starting an exercise routine. Also, do not exceed 85% of your MHR. Certain medicines, like beta-blockers, can affect your heart rate which means you might not be able to reach your target rate. Build up gradually to your target heart rate if you are new to exercise or coming back after a long time.