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Working Out Doesn't Have To Be Hard. Just Try Zone 2 Training

Posted on December 6, 2023 by Elizabeth Swanson

Zone 2 training has been gaining popularity in the fitness world. But rather than a rigorous, high-intensity workout, it’s low-intensity exercise. Most people can incorporate Zone 2 training—a lighter-paced, endurance-building workout—into their fitness regimen.   

“There are five training zones,” says Pamela Webert, an exercise physiologist at Henry Ford Health. “They refer to the percentage of your maximum heart rate that’s being used. Zone 1 uses about 50 to 60% of your max heart rate—for many people that would be going for a walk. Zone 2 uses about 60 to 70% of your max heart rate—that would be leisurely swimming laps or going for an easy bike ride, a slow jog or a brisk walk. By the time you get to Zone 5, you’re using 90 to 100% of your max heart rate, which would be sprinting or doing an all-out effort.”   

Everyone’s maximum heart rate is different. While you can calculate your estimated maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220, Webert says this formula doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. 

“Your age, fitness level, genetics and even medications you’re taking can affect your maximum heart rate,” she says. “Instead, a better gauge of intensity is the ‘talk test.’ You’ll know you are in Zone 2 when you are exercising but can still carry on a conversation. If you’re out of breath, you’ve jumped into a higher zone.”

Zone 2 Training Benefits Athletes And Fitness Newbies Alike

No matter your fitness level, Zone 2 training can be a great addition to your exercise regimen.  

“For athletes, Zone 2 training balances out other workouts while building endurance,” says Webert. “For example, if you’re a cross country runner, you ultimately want to finish a race as fast as possible, but you can’t do speed work all of the time. You still need endurance and improved running efficiency, both of which can be achieved with Zone 2 training. 

For everyone else, Zone 2 training is a less daunting way to start a fitness regimen—and stick with it—as The American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercising at least 150 minutes a week. The average exerciser cannot stay in Zone 4 or 5 anywhere near the time they can stay in Zone 2. 

As for how long each Zone 2 workout should be? That depends. “If someone is new to exercise and staying in a Zone 2 heart rate, they may be done after 15 minutes,” says Webert. “But typically, the average person who has a regular exercise routine should be able to stay in a Zone 2 workout for an hour or two. If you’re a marathon runner, you should easily be able to do a Zone 2 workout for three hours and feel pretty comfortable.” 

The more frequently you do Zone 2 workouts, the longer you’ll be able to sustain a Zone 2 workout.

Zone 2 Exercise Has Plenty Of Health Benefits  

Don’t be fooled—even if Zone 2 training seems like an easy workout, it has several benefits. For example, Zone 2 training can: 


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  • Improve blood pressure
  • Improve insulin resistance if you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes 
  • Improve endurance—whether you’re a marathon runner or just want to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling winded
  • Aid in weight loss
  • Lower your resting heart rate
  • Improve your heart’s ability to pump blood

“When people start to exercise, they often think they have to go as hard as they can,” says Webert. “But pushing yourself to Zone 4 right away is not maintainable. Pushing into Zone 4 too much and too soon sets you up for injury and burnout, which ultimately sabotages the consistency that is needed to develop a successful exercise program. Sometimes people think they have to work out like The Biggest Loser to make a difference, but that’s not the case.” 

Reviewed by Pamela Webert, MS, ACSM-CEP, an exercise physiologist who sees patients at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine and Henry Ford Medical Center-Second Avenue in Detroit.

Categories : MoveWell

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