I am not just a couch potato, I’m the queen-of-the-sofa. The simple truth is that while my brothers were off winning races and bringing home trophies and blue ribbons and laurel leaves, I was quite simply much happier curled up on the couch with a good book. The problem for me with exercise is sweat – I really, really hate (yes, hate is a strong word but it’s the appropriate one at the moment) to sweat. Of course, here in the south, we ladies don’t sweat – we “glow” – honey, do I ever “glow” when I exercise!
Since exercise isn’t my first love (or even my second or third), I want to make certain that my heart gets the most bang-for-the-buck and benefit out of every minute that I spend turning my otherwise somewhat civilized self into a red-faced, dripping puddle of womanhood. In the past, the best medical advice for getting that heart rate up into the good-for-you-cardiac-zone meant hitting the magic target of at least 70 percent of your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) during the sweating (oops, I mean exercise) session. Calculating the MHR was really pretty easy – simply subtract your age from 220. To find the 70 percent target heart rate was a simple matter of multiplying the result by 70 percent.
All this sounds well and good (and easy) and for 40 years we women have made the trip to the gym with our calculations in hand, satisfied that as long as we hit the target heart rate, we were doing our part to ensure a healthy heart. There’s just one little flaw with the MHR. It turns out that (uh oh!) this formula was developed based on studies conducted on – men! (Yes, no girls allowed in those studies – men only.) As we’ve all, hopefully, learned by now, men and women really are physiologically different and our bodies simply do not respond the same way. To reverse an old saying, what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander (and vice versa).
So, it’s out with the old and in with new heart rate guidelines which now take a woman’s physiology into account. Developed as a result of the St. James Women Take Heart Project, the new formula for calculating maximum heart rate for a woman is 206 minus 88 percent of your age. (The St.