Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Research Supports Training Load or Points

 Study shows that measuring your exercise matters

Why does it matter?

When a study comes out and says, basically, that individuals who monitored and measured their exercise:
  • lowered their body mass
  • lowered their body mass index
  • lowered their body fat
  • lowered their blood pressure (systolic)
  • lowered their cholesterol
  • lowered their resting heart rate
  • lowered their blood glucose
It should get you excited.  After all, MOST people want those kind of results

How do you monitor and measure?

The Monitor

In order to measure, you MUST have some kind of device which will accurately monitor your intensity.  This can easily be done with a heart rate monitor, which measures your heart rate.  The best heart rate monitors out there have both a transmitter (chest strap) and a receiver (watch).  Many machines at the health club will also monitor your heart rate wirelessly, or through the use of hand held grippers.  For the most accurate monitoring, however, a heart rate monitor is your best bet.
This is my favorite monitor - the Blink watch.  It's easy to use!  Read more...

The Measurement

Measuring training load comes down to three important factors, each of which can now be quantified.  (This system was first presented - to me, at least - by Heart Zones USA, which uses Heart Zone Training points, or HZT points to measure load.)

Frequency (F) is the number of workouts.  Because we want to do this for each workout, the frequency is "1", even through we might have more than one workout a day.  If, in a boring and monotonous world, we did the exact same workout every single day for an entire week, the frequency would be "7".  But, since we like variety, let's do the calculation for EACH of our workouts, individually.  Thus F = 1.

Intensity (I) is what you're measuring with your monitor.  You're measuring how fast or slow your heart beats.  With a heart rate watch, your intensity is displayed in bpm, or beats per minute.  To make things simpler, we can use a heart rate chart and zones.  Here are two of my favorite charts, both from the leader in heart rate training, Heart Zones.

Time (T) is how many minutes you spend doing your activity.

Multiply F x I x T

When you multiply F x I x T together, you get a measurement of load.  In other words, you're quantifying how much physical stress you put on your body in that one workout.  Here are some examples:

Using the maximum heart rate chart with 5 zones:

60 minute hard run in Zone 4 = 240 points
30 minute easy walk in Zone 2 = 60 points
45 minute interval bike class with 15 minutes in each Zone 2, 3, and 4 = 135 points
60 minute power walk in Zone 3 = 180 points

Using the threshold heart rate chart with 3 zones:

60 minute hard run in Zone 3 = 180 points
30 minute easy walk in Zone 1 = 30 points
45 minute interval bike class with 15 minutes in each Zone 1, 2 and 3 = 100 points
60 minute power walk in Zone 2 = 120 points

Regardless of what chart you use, you still get a "total load" factor, which quantifies the amount of physical stress on your body.  It's important to use the same chart to calculate load, otherwise, you'll be comparing apples to oranges.  

Using Load to Reach Your Goals

Once you start giving each of your workouts a "load factor", you'll recognize what the correct amount of exercise is necessary for you to reach your goals.

Using the example above (we'll use the 5 zone chart of maximum heart rate), add up the points for each of the workouts to get total points for the week for a total of 615 points. If the individual's goal is to maintain weight, all other factors being the same, he/she would have to do 615 points every week.  The fun part of this is adding variety by switching up intensity with time to get different load for different workouts.  If the goal was to lose weight, he or she would need to increase the load.  To increase the load, you have to increase one of the 3 factors:  frequency, intensity or time.

So, we know it works.  Give it a try.  If you have any questions regarding training load, send me a question at  Read the full article, below.

Exercise dose, exercise adherence, and associated health outcomes in the TIGER study.



To effectively evaluate activity-based interventions for weight management and disease risk reduction, objective and accurate measures of exercise dose are needed. This study examined cumulative exercise exposure defined by HR-based intensity, duration, and frequency as a measure of compliance with a prescribed exercise program and a predictor of health outcomes.


One thousand one-hundred fifty adults (21.3 ± 2.7 yr) completed a 15-wk exercise protocol consisting of 30 min·d, 3 d·wk, at 65%-85% maximum HR reserve. Computerized HR monitor data were recorded at every exercise session (33,473 valid sessions). To quantify total exercise dose, duration for each session was adjusted for average exercise intensity (%HR reserve) to create a measure of intensity minutes for each workout, which were summed over all exercise sessions to formulate an HR physical activity score (HRPAS). Regression analysis was used to examine the relation between HRPAS and physiological responses to exercise training. Compliance with the exercise protocol based on achievement of the minimum prescribed HRPAS was compared with adherence defined by attendance.


On the basis of HRPAS, 868 participants were empirically defined as compliant, and 282 were noncompliant. HRPAS-based and attendance-based classifications of compliance and adherence differed in approximately 9% of participants. Higher HRPAS was associated with significant positive changes in body mass (P < 0.001), body mass index (P < 0.001), waist and hip circumferences (P < 0.001), percent body fat (P < 0.001), systolic blood pressure (P < 0.011), resting HR (P < 0.003), fasting glucose (P < 0.001), and total cholesterol (P < 0.02). Attendance-based adherence was associated with body mass, hip circumference, percent body fat, resting HR, and cholesterol (P < 0.05).


The HRPAS is a quantifiable measure of exercise dose associated with improvement in health indicators beyond that observed when adherence is defined as session attendance.

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