You’re probably already practicing this effective training style without realizing it.

When you’re rollerblading in a busy park, walking through a mountainous forest, or walking down the street with your squirrel-chasing puppy, you’ll probably notice your heart beating faster than usual.

These activities feel more like leisure than serious exercise. But in reality, you’re doing zone 2 cardio training, a type of steady-state aerobic training that’s typically performed at an easy to moderate intensity level, says Melissa KendterCPT, ACE-certified personal trainer, functional training specialist, and UESCA-certified running coach.

So what exactly is zone 2 cardio? This method of training (also known as low-intensity steady state, or LISS, cardio) will typically get your heart rate in the 60 to 70 percent range of your maximum heart rate, says Kendter. It’s designed to keep your heart rate elevated at a fast but sustainable pace. At this level, you’ll feel like you’re breathing a little harder than usual, but you’re still able to carry on a conversation, she adds.

The good news: You can try method cardio with just about any type of workout that can keep your heart rate consistently elevated, she says. This means zone 2 cardio can be running, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, rowing, skating and elliptical training.

Meet the expert: Melissa Kendter is an ACE-certified personal trainer, functional training specialist, and UESCA-certified running coach. Kendter is also the creator of the EvolveYou App Engagement Programs.

Zone 2 cardio training may be a low-intensity session, but it has big benefits for your health and performance. Here’s what you should know about the workout style and how to add it to your routine, according to the trainers.

Benefits of Zone 2 Cardio

  • Improves heart health. As a workout that engages large muscle groups, is rhythmic, and can be maintained continuously, zone 2 cardio can be classified as an aerobic workout. As you train, your body will use oxygen to create the energy it needs to fuel your muscles, says Kendter. Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve the lipid profile (increasing HDL/good cholesterol levels) by World Journal of Cardiology research and insulin sensitivity, according to research published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. And in individuals with cardiovascular disease, it has been found to reduce disease-related mortality and lower the risk of myocardial infarction, according to one study. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine to study.
  • This increases your stamina. Consistently hitting zone 2 cardio can help you build your aerobic base, says Kendter. As a result, you’ll increase your cardiovascular fitness, improve your body’s ability to generate energy from oxygen and deliver it to working muscles, and increase your ability to perform steady-state work over an extended period of time, she explains. In other words, the more volume you train in zone 2, the longer you can run, swim, or bike without running out of breath. (You might even consider training for a marathon!)
  • Improves performance and power. Zone 2 training can also help you perform better at higher intensities, says Kendter. Here’s how it works: Aerobic exercise increases the number and size of mitochondria (which use oxygen to create energy) and causes muscle capillaries (which supply muscles with oxygen-rich blood) to grow, according to new research in Stat Pearls. Thanks to your body’s improved ability to deliver and use oxygen, you’ll see increased performance in other aspects of your exercise routine, she says. It then helps improve your energy output at higher intensities, your efficiency, and your overall strength, she adds.

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  • It is less likely to cause burnout and overtraining compared to more intense modalities. Zone 2 cardio is challenging enough to generate significant adaptations, but it’s not then overwhelm your body and be hard to recover from, says Kendter. Thanks to that hard-enough intensity, you’re less likely to experience total fatigue and overtraining with zone 2 cardio, she adds. Becoming a more agile and complete person is about building your [aerobic] based on that zone 2 training, she notes. Because if you push yourself too hard all the time, you’ll overdo it. That’s when it can lead to overtraining, injury, or eventually a drop in motivation just because your body is depleted.

How to know if you are in zone 2

Whether you’re running, rowing, walking or biking, the best way to tell if you’re working in zone 2 is to simply watch your heart rate, says Kendter. Remember that your heart rate should be 60-70% of your maximum HR. For estimate your maximum RHmultiply your age by 0.7 and subtract that number from 208. Then take 60 and 70 percent of that number to determine your zone 2 heart rate range.

How to calculate zone 2 cardio range:

  • Inferior limit: 0.6 x (208 – age x 0.7)
  • Upper limit: 0.7 x (208 – age x 0.7)

For example: If you’re 25, your zone 2 training heart rate should be approximately 114 to 133 beats per minute, which you can monitor using a heart rate monitor, chest strap, or similar tracking device.

Heart rate zones explained

Your body is using glucose, fatty acids and amino acids for fuel. You are working at a very low intensity, around 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. Your Perceived Exertion Rate (or RPE), a scale used to measure your exercise intensity, from one to 10, is a one or two.

If you don’t have gadgets, you can also use the conversation test by speaking aloud during exercise to determine your intensity. You should be able to carry on a conversation during zone 2 training,” says Kendter. “You shouldn’t be short of breath.”

And you don’t have to speak out loud to test your range, either. “I always say you should be able to inhale for three to four counts and exhale for three to four counts, and that means you’re in the proper zone,” says Kendter. This method is ideal for beginners to cardio, as their heart rate will naturally be a little higher even when they’re working at a lower intensity, she adds.

At some point during your workout, you may notice that your heart rate is increasing or it becomes harder to talk, which could be due to dehydration, a sudden increase in workload, or environmental factors like a rise in temperature, says Kendter . In that case, slow down to stay in zone 2. If you need to stop and walk or take a break from what you’re doing, take a break and come back in a minute, she suggests. Or just slow it down until your heart rate slows down or you can speak or breathe normally again.

Zone 2 training FAQs

Does zone 2 training burn fat?

Zone 2 cardio training is often referred to as the fat-burning zone, and that’s true to an extent, says Kendter. It’s your body’s way of using fat for energy so you can run more, walk more, swim more or bike longer,” she says. “It’s not actually burning fat off your body. That’s a big misconception going on.

Why is zone 2 training important?

Zone 2 cardiovascular training offers several health benefits (see above). It supports heart health, improves endurance so you can cycle around town for hours on end without feeling exhausted, and increases the body’s ability to supply and utilize oxygen during exercise. Plus, it’s relatively easy on the body, so you won’t feel exhausted if you do it consistently.

Zone 2 is training good for weight loss?

Zone 2 cardio can help you reach your body composition (read: weight loss) goals, says Kendter. Since you can do this daily, zone 2 training will absolutely improve your body composition because you move your body more, she explains. Not to mention, you’re more likely to stick with physical activity like low-intensity zone 2 cardio that feels enjoyable and sustainable so you can see more progress in the long run.

But zone 2 training doesn’t specifically target body fat, and higher-intensity activities generally burn more calories per minute than their lower-intensity counterparts. As a result, these higher intensity activities may be a better option for weight loss.

How long should a zone 2 training workout last?

Generally speaking, a zone 2 cardio workout should last at least 20 to 30 minutes, and you can gradually progress to 60-minute sessions as your fitness improves, says Kendter. This type of low-intensity workout takes longer than a HIIT session.

Can you do zone 2 cardio every day?

Yes, you absolutely can. Zone 2 cardio is low-intensity, so you can do it every day without any serious repercussions, says Kendter. If you’re training for a marathon, an Ironman, or just improving your fitness, you can definitely do a 20- or 30-minute brisk walk every day, and that’s zone 2 training, she adds.

How often should you do zone 2 cardio per week?

If cardio isn’t your thing, you no You have to do this every day of the week. Instead, try incorporating zone 2 training into your routine twice a week for cardiovascular and performance benefits, suggests Kendter.

Whether you decide to bike, walk, or rollerblade, remember to keep your heart rate steady and your exertion low enough that you can still belt out Taylor Swift’s latest album.

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