January 11, 2023

Benefits of Zone 2 Training

benefits of zone 2 training
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

In our previous article, 5 Heart Rate Training Zones we emphasized the importance of Zone 2 training. Today we will discuss this training zone in more detail.

Zone 2 Training Summary

If your primary focus of exercise and obtaining and maintaining good health then Zone training is where you want to live, therefore, the zone you will want to spend the most time. It is the zone where you will realize the biggest improvement in fat burning and greatest improvement in your ability to remove lactate which is waste product.

Quickly, below the the physiologic changes that occur with Zone 2 training. Zone 2 training is achieved by maintaining your heart rate at 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

  • Increased efficiency of the left ventricle of the heart leading to an increased stroke volume. Stroke volume is the amount of blood the heart pumps during a single contraction.
  • Lower resting heart rate.
  • Increased VO2 max.
  • Increased mitochondria and capillary density.
  • More efficient fat burning.
  • Increased endurance.

There are couple of things that make Zone 2 training appealing. It is not very hard to maintain your heart rate in Zone 2, in fact, you may even question if you are getting any benefit because the intensity of the exercise will seem minimal.

Secondly, Zone 2 training provides fitness and health benefits and without placing any unnecessary stress on the body. This is important in our increasing stressful society in which we now live. Stress is coming at us from all over. The last thing you need is to have your exercise program add more stress by taxing our immune systems and generating excess waste products as more intense forms of exercise will. Zone 2 training is more rejuvenating than higher intensity levels.

How Much Zone 2 Training Per Week

How much time each week should you devote to Zone 2 training?  That is a very good question and the answer in part depends on your goals. There are two variables. One variable is the duration of the workout in minutes and the second is the frequency measured in days per week. Together they give us the weekly dose of Zone 2 training.

For health/metabolic benefit and treating chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes three training sessions a week lasting 60 minutes or more should start to provide benefits especially with fat metabolism. Once you have achieved your goals you may be able to maintain your health/fitness with two training sessions a week. There is no harm in doing more. Those who are already fit will have to spend more time in Zone 2 training to realize further improvement.

For many, the dosing of Zone 2 training will be dictated by the time they have available to exercise. If time is limited, then do what you can. Time available is the biggest obstacle to Zone 2 training.

For more on this topic listen to the Podcast below with Peter Attia, MD and Iñññigo San Millán .

#85 – Iñigo San Millán, Ph.D.: Zone 2 Training and Metabolic Health


Zone 2 Heart Rate

You will want to achieve a heart rate range that is 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate. If you are 45 years old and your maximum heart rate is 165. Sixty percent of 165 is 99 and 70% is 116 so you will want to keep your heart rate between 99 and 116.

Zone 2 Training by Age

Since your maximum heart rate declines with age you will need to periodically determine your maximum heart rate so you know where your zone 2 training zone is for you as you age. The 45 year old male illustrated above will have a different zone 2 training heart range when he or she becomes 55 years old. At 55 his or hers maximum heart rate may have decreased to 160 and thus the zone 2 training zone would become 96 to 112 beats per minute.

Zone 2 Training for Fat Loss

Zone 2 training is ideal for weight loss as it improves your body’s ability to burn fat by improving mitochondrial function. But, there is an investment of time to obtain the benefits of zone 2 training.

Zone 1 Training Versus Zone 2 Training

Zone 1 training is a recovery zone and a zone that corresponds to everyday living and walking around. It is a really easy effort and is used for warmups and warm downs, recovery after workouts, and easy workouts that add to aerobic base. You many not feel like you achieved anything training in Zone 1. During this training you should be able to carry on a conversation. Fat is the source of calories used in Zone 1 training.

Zone 2 training is simply kicking up the intensity a notch in comparison to Zone 1 training without causing any undo stress on the body. The heart rate range for Zone 2 training is 60 to 70% of maximum heart rate whereas the heart range for Zone 1 training is 50 to 60%.

Zone 2 Training Versus Zone 3 Training

In Zone 3 training the heart rate is kept between 70 to 80% of maximum heart rate. In transitioning from Zone 2 to Zone 3 training you begin start burning some calories from carbohydrates whereas in Zone 2 you are almost exclusively burning calories from fats. In Zone 3 training you begin to make lactate or lactic acid which is what you are trying to avoid doing in Zone 2 training. Zone 3 training is more stressful on the body but can help you prepare for tempo runs and intervals.

Is Zone 2 Training a Waste of Time?

Zone 2 training may seem like a waste of time especially if you have been conditioned to think that you really have to push yourself to get get any fitness and health benefit from your exercise program. When you look at the benefits of Zone 2 training list under “Zone 2 Training Summary”, it would be hard to conclude that Zone 2 training is a waste of time. Far from it.

How to Calculate Zone 2 Training

Again, Zone 2 training is exercising at an intensity that keeps you heart rate between 60 and 70% of your maximum heart rate. Another way to determine if you are in Zone 2 training, and actually the best way, is to measure your lactate level (you can buy test strips at the drugstore). If you lactate level is between 1.7 and 1.8 mmol, then you were in Zone 2.

Zone 2 Cardio Examples

Zone 2 training can be accomplished with nearly any form of exercise. The type of exercise is not as important as it is to keep your heart rate between 60 and 70% of your maximum heart rate. Therefore, pick an exercise that you enjoy but occasionally mix it up. I find it hard to do the same exercise for an hour. I might ride a stationary bike for 20 minutes, then walk for 20 minutes, then use the elliptical or something similar for the last 20 minutes of a 60 minute workout..

Benefits of Zone 2 Training Cycling

As mentioned above nearly any form of exercise can be used for Zone 2 training. For those with lower extremity musculoskeletal problems like arthritis of the knees or hips, stationary cycling is an ideal training method.

Zone 2 Training on a Treadmill

Zone 2 training is easily accomplished on treadmill. You can typically get into Zone 2 simply by walking on the treadmill getting your heart rate into the Zone 2 range by adjusting the speed that you walk as well as the incline.

References: https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/blog/zone-2-training/



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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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