Why Should I Care About My Heart Rate Zone When I’m Playing Outside with My Kids?


My family loves to exercise! We might not be attending Zumba classes, but we try to remain active on a daily basis. In the past, we were more creative so we could get our kids excited and more involved. Recently, however, we’ve started started to pay more attention to the science behind living an active lifestyle.

parent playing with kid

One of our most interesting findings so far has a lot to do with “target heart rate zones.” Other than the idea that you could count your beats per minute, I didn’t know much else about it. What’s the point in tracking it anyway? Well, I’m here to enlighten you on just how important it is.

Heart Rate Zones…Who Cares?

Starting with the most egregious claim, you may have heard that target heart rates are a myth. Where did this come from? It’s believed to have come from a series of articles where experts aren’t supporting the idea that target heart rates aren’t a “thing” – it’s more like they can’t find the “perfect heart rate zone” for optimized fat loss.

family exercise with heart rate zone

If you dig deeper, you might find that there actually four basic heart rate zones and depending on how hard you’re working, your body is conditioning and burning fat or muscle at different rates. So when I’m exercising with my kids, my heart rate is staying relatively low. However, when I’m exercising by myself or with someone like my wife who is capable of keeping up with me, my heart rate is in a much different zone and my exercise will produce much different results.

I’m seeing that as I vary my exercise (whether I’m with my wife, my kids, or by myself), I’m getting a more well-rounded workout and I’m improving my strength, cutting fat, and increasing my endurance.

What’s Happening to My Body When I’m Exercising Like THIS…

Zone One EASY (60-70%)

Taking it easy while exerting your muscles and cardio vascular system will put you in this zone. Your body will improve circulation and your muscles will get better at using oxygen. When you use 60-70% of your heart rate reserve, your body is learning to better feed the muscles that are working with metabolized fat.

Zone Two AEROBIC (70-80%)

Your cardiovascular system will get a real workout in this zone. Your body will improve its ability to carry oxygenated blood to your muscles and transport carbon dioxide away from them. This zone is also going to increase your overall muscle strength.

Zone Three ANAEROBIC (80-90%)

Training at this zone will improve your lactate threshold and therefor your performance. This zone is tough to train in. Your muscles are tired and your breathing is heavy.

Zone Four MAX or RED LINE (90-100%)

Training in this zone is reserved for athletes who are very fit, otherwise you can expect to incur injuries. As your muscles are lacking in oxygen in this zone, lactic acid is building up quickly. But this is ideal for increasing speed.

target heart rate and exercise

Calculating Your Ideal Heart Rate Zone For Family Exercise

One thing you might have noticed about the above list is that it’s based on percentages, not beats per minute. That’s because every person is different, and getting into each zone will be based on a different standard and stamina. My target zones are different than my wife’s, and hers are different from her coworker’s and our kids. Knowing how your family reacts on a personal basis is a great way to stay healthy together.

Luckily, it is pretty simple to figure it out.

Step One – Measure your resting pulse by checking it during a time when you have been relaxing, or you have just woken up.

Step Two – Subtract your age in years from the number 220. That will be your maximum heart rate, or the highest you can safely go. Someone who is 45 years of age will be 175, while someone who is 25 years of age will be 195.

Step Three – Take your maximum and subtract your resting pulse. For example, if you are 45 years old, and your resting pulse is 80, it would be 95. This number is your “reserve” rate.

Step Four – Any time you want to find a target heart rate based off of the exercises listed above, you multiply the percentage (such as 80%) by the reserve heart rate, then add your pulse’s resting rate. Using the 45 year old example, the perfect target rate for anaerobic would be 156. See? Easy as pie!

Once you know everyone’s personalized and ideal heart rate zones, you can know what’s happening to each of you when you train together. So even if your focus is on flag football in the backyard, you’ll know where your heart rate needs to be to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.