Does Weight Training Count as Cardio? Fitness Tips for Women Over 50

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 Does weight training count as cardio? Fitness Tips for Women Over 50

My name is Alicia Jones from Alicia Jones Healthy Living and for 16 years, I’ve helped transform the health and lives of women over 50 through fitness tips for women over 50 and weight loss strategies for women over 50.

You may have heard that one of the most valuable fitness tips for women over 50 is to weight train. and it’s true!

Weight training is one of the best workout methods to tone and firm the body, enhance strength, enhance your quality of life and YES, it’s a must to lose weight over 50.

But it’s no secret that cardio is also important. It has great benefits for your heart, your lungs, and to balance blood sugar.

In an ideal world, you’d have all the time to do both cardio and weight training, or maybe you do have the time but you’d really rather not spend every second working out.

Whatever the case may be, if you’re wondering, “Does weight training count as cardio?”

 The simple answer is yes, your weight training can count as cardio, as long as your weight training workout puts you in a cardio heart rate zone.

There are 3 simple ways to check if you’re in your heart rate zone during your weight training workout:

  1. Do a Talk test

  2. Use Fitness technology

  3. Manually checking your heart rate and calculate your heart rate zones.

Once you know the method you’ll use to check if you’re in the  zone, you’ll want to check if you’re in these zones often throughout your workout to know for sure that your weight training definitely counts as cardio.

I’m going to go through the 3 simple ways you can check your heart rate zone, but before I do, I want to make sure you know the 2 heart rate zones you’re looking for to test if your weight training workout is indeed cardio.

During Your Weight Training Workout, you’ll want to know two specific heart rate zones:

  1. Warm up heart rate zone = 65% of your maximum heart rate
  2. Working zone = 85% of your maximum heart rate

Think of the warm up range (65% of your maximum heart rate) as a heart rate zone that prepares your body for physical activity.

You’ll want to make sure that you begin your workout at this zone for the first 5- 10 minutes of your workout.

Then, for the rest of your weight training workout, you’ll want to have moments where your heart rate rises and you reach 85%  of your maximum heart rate zone.

This does not mean you have to consistently stay at this 85% heart rate zone every second of your workout,  but you’ll want to try to accumulate minutes where you do reach this zone.

In fact, depending on the type of weight training you do and your current fitness level, you may fluctuate a lot between 65%-85% , sometimes even a bit higher for short bursts.

This is known as interval training and it even has some added cardio benefits that long, slow bouts of cardio do not provide.

So, as long as you see peaks of up to 85% of your heart rate maximum,   and you accumulate minutes within your 65%- 85% heart rate range throughout you workout, you can count it as cardio.

Now, that you know what zones you’ll want to reach, let’s take a look at the 3 ways you’ll know if you’ve reached them.

1.Take the Talk Test:

 The talk test is the simplest way to gauge if you’re in your heart rate zones.

You’ll gauge whether you’ve reached your heart rate zone based on how easy or difficult it is to hold a conversation or to sing.

If you can hold a full conversation easily while weight training and you’re not out of breath while you speak, then your intensity is low.

You are probably at or below 65% of your heart rate zone. (you’re at or below your warm up heart rate).

If you are out of breathe while you speak, and you need to catch your breath, then you’re in a higher intensity heart rate zone closer to 85% of your heart.

As you see, the talk test is a really simple method to gauge if you’re weight training counts as cardio.

The problem is, it’s not really precise. You can’t ensure you’re between 65% and 85% of your maximum heart rate just by speaking.

Much more precise ways to measure your heart rate zones are using some types of fitness technology or do manual heart rate checks.

2.Fitness Technology

Fitness technology is another simple method to know your exact heart rate, and to tell you if your weight training is reaching a cardio level.

Fitbits, Apple watches, Garmin, and my personal favourite, Polar all share your heart rate information, the fitness zone you’re in and the amount of time you’ve spent in each zone.

 All of the information is at the tap of an app.

But, Before you start relying heavily on your apple watch or Fitbit for accurate weight training heart rate zones, it’s important to know that when it comes to short bursts of high heart rates (such as the interval bursts you’ll probably experience during weight training), there tends to be a significant amount of lag time before these two devices show an accurate heart rate zone).

You could feel out of breath, your heart feels like it’s beating out of your chest, yet the Fitbit or Apple watch continues to show a low heart rate, and therefore a low heart rate zone when in fact, you could be working at max.

When my clients come to me with Fitbit and Apple watches we always test out the device’s accuracy or lag time by doing a manual heart rate check, then comparing  the amount of beats shown on the device with the amount of beats we manually find.

I suggest you do this too.  It takes just over 10 seconds.

If the manual heart rate is similar to your Fitbit or Apple Watch, great! You know you can rely on your technology to gauge your heart rate and heart rate zones.

How to Check your Heart Rate During Your Workout to Check the Accuracy of

Your Fitbit or Apple Watch:

(Fitness Tips for Women Over 50)

To determine what your heart rate is during exercise, use your first two fingers to press lightly over the blood vessels on your inner wrist (thumb side), or on the side of your neck. Count your pulse for ten seconds, then multiply this number by six.

You’ll want to know how to do this, not only to do the comparison with your apple of Fitbit technology, but also if you’re doing a manual heart rate zones and heart rate checks.

3.Manually checking your heart rate and calculate your heart rate zones.

There are two simple methods to check your heart rate zone manually.

For both options, you’ll need to know what your resting heart rate is first.

You can use your Fitbit or Apple Watch data to know your resting heart rate.

Unlike the lag time these devices show during short bursts of all out intensity, Fitbits and Apple watches are generally more accurate to gauge your resting pulse.

This is because Fit technology detects your resting heart rate on an ongoing basis (both asleep and awake) and averages the number. You have a more accurate depiction of what your resting heart rate is over a longer period of time.

If you don’t have Fitness Technology to gauge your resting heart rate , you’ll want to manually check your resting heart rate zone.

How to Check Your Resting Heart Rate:

(Fitness Tips for Women Over 50)

The best time to check is first thing in the morning when you’ve just woken up.

  • Make sure you’ve got a stopwatch by your bed
  • When you wake up, grab the stopwatch
  • Find your pulse: Use your first two fingers to press lightly over the blood vessels on your inner wrist (thumb side), or on the side of your neck.
  • Then, count the number of heart beats you feel over 60 seconds.

The number of beats you count over 60 seconds is your resting heart rate.

Once you know your resting heart rate, you’re ready to know which heart rate zone calculation you’ll use:

Calculate Your Heart Rate Zone When your Resting Heart Rate is Between 60 to 72 Beats

While most medical facilities say your resting heart rate may range between 60-100 beats, the average resting heart rate tends to be 72 beats per minute.

If your resting heart rate is around the average resting heart rate range (around 60-72+ beats per minute), then this heart rate zone method is best:

Resting Heart Rate 60-72+ beats:

  • 220- age = Maximum heart rate
  • (220- age) x 65% =  warm up heart rate
  • (220 – age) x 85%= Cardio heart rate

Example: 60-Year-Old Woman. Resting Heart Rate 61:

  • 220 – 60 = 160 (Maximum heart rate)
  • 160 x 65% = 104 (warm up heart rate)
  • 160 x 85% = 136 (cardio heart rate)

When Your resting Heart rate is 50-59 beats:

If you exercise a lot, your resting heart rate will naturally be lower. You can still use the easy conversion (above) to check your heart rate zone.

If you’re not yet active, or you’re low to moderately active (you don’t consider yourself as active as an athlete) and you have a resting heart rate between 50-59 beats (or lower), this is known as Bradycardia.

Bradycardia is the term for a heart rate lower than 60 beats. A low heart rate may be a sign of another condition such as Hypothyroidism, a heart condition, or an electrolyte imbalance. It can even be a side effect of using certain medications.

Make sure to tell your doctor about your low heart rate before beginning any workout. 

Once cleared for weight training, you’ll need to use a heart rate zone calculation that takes your low heart rate into consideration.  Use this calculation to determine your heart rate zones:

1.Calculate your maximum heart rate:

 220- age = Max Heart Rate

2.Subtract your Resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate. This will give you a number known as your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)

Max Heart Rate –  Resting heart rate = Heart Rate reserve (HRR)

3.Multiply your heart rate reserve (number you just calculate) by 65% (warm up heart rate zone)

HRR X 65% =  Warm up heart rate

4.Multiply your heart rate reserve (number you just calculate) by 85% (Cardio zone)


HRR x 85% = Cardio heart rate

Example: 50-year-old woman with a resting heart rate of 54

  1. 220- 50 = 170 (Maximum heart rate)
  2. 170 – 54 = 116 (heart rate reserve)
  3. 116 x 65% = 75.4 , 75 (warm up heart rate. Round up or down)
  4. 116 x 85% = 98.6, 99 bpm (Working heart rate. Round up or down)

Of course, as you can see, the manual heart rate zone calculation takes a bit more time and a bit more effort than tapping on your Fitbit. or checking your breath.

The important thing to remember is all methods give you insight into whether or not your weight training workout counts as cardio.

Choose the heart rate zone “check method” that you’re most likely to use on an ongoing basis while weight training.

  • Focus on getting into your target heart rate zones
  • Check your heart rate frequently during your weight training workout to make sure you reach these zones throughout your workout

And if or when you do reach those zones, then count your weight training as cardio.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these fitness tips for women over 50. If you’ve got a question that you need answered reach out at any time.

See you next time!

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