Heart Rate Control for Treadmill Workouts

Changing Treadmill Speed and Incline to Boost Intensity Based on Your Heart Rate

Walking on Treadmill
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Heart rate control and heart rate monitors are popular on many exercise machines including treadmills, elliptical trainers, and stationary bikes. Learn how to use these features to get a better workout.

The differences in a heart rate monitor and heart rate control include:

  • Heart Rate Monitor: A treadmill with a heart rate monitor reads your heart rate by connecting with pulse sensors on the side rails or a chest strap sensor. It gives you data but doesn't control your workout.
  • Heart Rate Control: Heart rate control dictates the extent of your workout by controlling the exertion level of your treadmill. The speed and incline will change based on your heart rate to keep your exertion at the level desired for the workout.

Why You Should Use a Treadmill With Heart Rate Control

To get an optimum workout, it is important to pace your exercise. You want your heart rate at the proper intensity level for an extended period. If your heart rate gets too high, your activity can become counterproductive. If it is too low, you are not getting any substantial health benefits.

That is why one of the most effective methods for fitness training is monitoring and controlling your heart rate. This is particularly true when striving for cardiovascular goals.

Whether you want to shed a few pounds, train for a marathon, or feel good about yourself, heart rate training and control can optimize your workout.

Handgrip vs. Wireless Heart Rate Control

There are two ways to measure your heart rate, with wireless being the one that makes the most sense:

  • Handgrip Control: Treadmills with handgrip heart rate control require holding on to the sensors on the side rails. It is awkward for walking and just not feasible for jogging. Holding onto the handrails is bad for walking posture and is discouraged.
  • Wireless Control: With wireless control, you attach a sensor strap around your chest, which transmits your heart rate to the console. This, in turn, controls the intensity of your workout by keeping your cardio exercise within a predetermined heart rate.

Getting in the Zone

Sally Edwards, author of "The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook," discusses the value of heart zone training. It works for 20-year-old athletes as well as 70-year-olds with heart trouble. The goal is to get into a particular zone of exertion, each of which has different benefits.

The heart rate in each zone is a percentage of your maximum heart rate, which varies by age and sex. You can check a target heart rate chart to see the corresponding heart rate for your age. She identifies five heart rate zones:

  • The Healthy Heart Zone: 50 percent to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is a safe, comfortable zone reached by an easy walk. This is the best zone for people who are just starting to exercise. This zone has been shown to help decrease body fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
  • The Temperate Zone: 60 percent to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. This zone provides the same benefits as the healthy heart zone but is more intense and burns more total calories. This zone is achieved through a faster walking speed or a slow jog.
  • The Aerobic Zone: 70 percent to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. This zone will improve your cardiovascular and respiratory systems and strengthen your heart. It is achieved through a steady jog.
  • The Anaerobic Threshold Zone: 80 percent to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is a high-intensity zone is achieved through a "burning" run.
  • The Redline Zone: 90 percent to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate. This zone is the equivalent of running full out and is often used in interval training. This zone should be approached with caution and can lead to injuries when sustained for an extended period.

Edwards suggests that after determining your maximum heart rate, you can improve your fitness by exercising in several zones. You alternate in those zones to increase your cardiovascular fitness and vary your exercise regimen. This is known as heart zone training.

Heart Rate Workouts on the Treadmill

Depending on the treadmill model, you can either have the heart rate control maintain a consistent and targeted heart rate or set it for interval heart rates, training in different zones. You can program the treadmill for desired workouts that vary the heart rate to your desired goals.

The programs available with heart rate control can vary. Some treadmills come with just one heart rate program, while high-end models can have a variety of programs like hill training, intervals, and extreme heart rate.

When losing weight and improving your cardiovascular health, it all comes down to your heart rate. Monitoring your heart and working out within zones will enhance your overall health and physical performance. If you are going to invest in quality fitness equipment, consider the heart rate control feature.

Heart rate control becomes your personal trainer. By monitoring your heart rate and adjusting your workout accordingly, you stay within your desired goal and avoid over or under-exerting yourself. It takes your treadmill workout to an optimum level.

You may have a treadmill with heart rate control available at your gym or health club, or you may consider buying a treadmill with heart rate control.

You should consult your physician before starting a new exercise program. He can assist you in determining a safe and healthy heart rate zone for you to maintain initially.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Heart Association. Know your target heart.

  2. Edwards S. The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook. Velo Press. 1999.

  3. American Heart Association. Know your target heart rates for exercise, losing weight and health.

  4. Harvard Medical School. Do you need to talk to a doctor before starting your exercise program?.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.