I received an email from a follower with a simple and important question:  “How to I determine how hard to exercise when I want to burn more body fat?”

I loved the question and I want to share my answer.

If your main objective is to reduce body fat, your target heart rate (THR) zone should be between 70 – 75% of your maximum heart rate (MHR).  There are approximately 7 different methods to calculate one’s MHR.  To keep it simple and avoid the all-too-often “paralysis by analysis” found within the world of Wellness, I’ll make it easy:

Max HR = 220 minus your AGE

Your Fat Burning Target Heart Rate Zone  =  70 to 75% of MHR or MHR x .7 to MHR x .75


  • 30 year old – MHR = 220 – 30 = 190 beats per minute (bpm)

Fat Burning Target Heart Rate Zone is 70 to 75% of MHR = MHR (190) x .7 to MHR x .75

190 x .7 = 133 bpm      190 x .75 = 142 bpm

The Fat Burning THR for a 30 year old is 133 to 142

  •  55-year-old – MHR = 220 – 55 = 165 bpm

Fat Burning Target Heart Rate Zone is 70 to 75% of MHR = MHR (165) x .7 to MHR x .75

165 x .7 = 115 bpm      165 x .75 = 124 bpm

The Fat Burning THR for a 55-year-old is 115 to 124

Biggest Obstacle

Boredom.  When working in this fat burning target heart rate zone, you’ll find it to be moderately intense but not overly fatigued.  Dust off the iPod because if you want to burn off the fat, avoid injuries and get ready for the beach, you’ll have to win the battle against a little boredom of the longer workouts.

Interestingly, that 70-75% of the MHR intensity for most runners is at a point where the runner can still carry on short conversations without being too winded.  In other words, at approximately 70% intensity, an average runner can say 5-10 words without catching their breath but not be so exhausted while running as to not be able to talk at all.  I’ve found this trick helpful when I don’t have my heart rate monitor on but I’m still interested in burning off that bowl of ice cream that I ate the night before.

Benefits of Working Out Within the Body Fat Burning Target HR Zone

  • You WILL burn the fat & drop the weight
  • You minimize the risk of injury compared to the traditional high intensity “huffing & puffing” workouts.
  • Your soft tissue (muscle & tendons) adapts to such workouts and tend to be more accepting to more work at any age.

Tips For Burning the Love Handles

  • Buy a heart rate monitor.  It will prove to be your MVP training partner.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive heart rate monitor with all the complicated components.  A simple heart rate monitor watch with beepers to warn you if your HR has gone too high or too low along with a timer to show your progress will do.
  • Find an activity that you enjoy doing and get busy doing it within your THR zone.  It doesn’t have to be running or lifting weights.  Whatever activity you can do to get your HR into the proper zone for an extended period of time will reduce your body fat.
  • Hydrate, hydrate & hydrate.  A well hydrated body burns 50% more fat than a dehydrated body.  A 50%/50% water to sports drink ratio is my rule for anyone exercising over 30 minutes.
  • Cardio exercise takes time.  The longer you exercise, within reason, the better.  45 minutes is better than 30 and 60 minutes is better than 45.  You get the drift.
  • Get excited about your fitness and reward yourself for both your effort and your results.  Having an upbeat and optimistic attitude will significantly enhance your results compared to the “I have to do this exercise and I’m not looking forward to it” mindset.  You have so many wonderful things to do in your life and reducing your body fat and controlling your pain WILL improve the quality of your life!
  • What you eat vs what you burn: It’s Simple Math. Decrease your fat consumption, avoid eating after 8 PM, create a habit of going for a walk after every meal, avoid all cream sauces on your foods, increase the amounts of fruits and veggies that you eat and master the art of “listening” to your body.  Your body is much smarter than we give it credit for.  Listening to your body will help you do what is needed to let your body do it’s job.  It sounds crazy but those that “get it” reap the rewards of a strong and healthy body.

It’s time for YOU to make the changes that gives YOU the body you deserve.