July 15th, 2022
Cardio zones are, essentially, levels of exertion as measured based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate. Many wearable fitness devices and apps can easily measure this for you, such as the Zones app for the Apple Watch.
Knowing which cardio zone to target when you engage in cardiovascular activity will ensure your workout is effective and safe. It can also help you judge the intensity of your workout and keep you on track toward your goals. In this article, we outline the five cardio zones so you can choose the one that makes sense for you.
Cardio Zone 1
Cardio Zone 2
This second cardio zone, which falls between 57 and 63% of your maximum heart rate, is the most beneficial. This zone involves moderate movement that you can perform comfortably for 30-60 minutes. You’ll likely break a good sweat, but will not feel wiped out.
Cardio Zone 3
Cardio Zone 4
The fourth zone, which falls between 77 and 95% of your maximum heart rate can be reached through activities like high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT). Though it does offer benefits for some people, this type of training can cause muscle damage and is also more likely to lead to DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), which means there is a higher risk of exercise-related injuries.
Cardio Zone 5
Zone 5 is maximum effort. This is performing the 100-meter sprint, all-out. At Nielsen Fitness, we don’t advise this cardio zone. It’s usually reserved for elite athletes; for weekend warriors or the average person, the risks far outweigh the benefits.
What Cardio Zone is Best?
For most people the Nielsen Fitness team recommends aiming for Cardio Zone 2, which is fantastic for improving metabolism and breaking down fat. It’s also less likely to result in injury.