If the idea of sweating through an aerobics class doesn't exactly appeal to you, you might be looking for a lower impact -- and less sweaty -- method of cardio. After all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get 150 minutes of moderate cardio each week. Taking a brisk walk can help you fulfill that requirement and reaching your target heart rate can help you get the most from walking. Because target heart rate and beats per minute varies from person to person, you'll need to calculate your individual beats per minute to make sure you're getting a solid cardio workout.
The problem with creating a heart rate baseline for brisk walking is the fact that everyone is different. Your heart health dictates how hard it has to work when engaging in cardio activity. If you're in great shape, your heart will work more efficiently than if you're packing a few extra pounds and are typically sedentary. Your personal intensity can also play a part in the average heart rate -- what might seem like a brisk walk to you can seem like a sprint to another and vice versa.
Target Heart Rate
A better way to measure your heart rate during walking is to set a target heart rate. Your target heart rate zone is a range of beats per minute where your heart is working both safely and efficiently. Your target heart rate is calculated by subtracting your age from 220 to find your maximum heart rate. Your target heart rate is then achieved by exercising to bring your beats per minute within 50 to 85 percent of your maximum. For a brisk walk, keep your heart rate in the mid- to upper range of your target heart rate.
Because your heart rate during physical activity is completely personal, you'll need a way to measure your heart rate during exercise. If you're into gadgets, you can easily wear a heart rate monitor -- a device worn like a watch that tracks your pulse and gives you an accurate reading for beats per minute. Or, you can do it the old-fashioned way -- find your pulse on your wrist or neck and count beats for 10 seconds. Multiply that number by six and you'll get your beats per minute.
If you find that going for a brisk walk doesn't exactly ring your bell -- or get you to your target heart rate, congrats! It means your heart works efficiently and you're probably in good shape. You can kick up the intensity with other forms of cardio, like switching to running, taking a spin class or swimming laps instead. Just remember to keep checking your pulse and making sure that you're getting the most out of your cardio workout.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.