This is the third in a series of ‘Fitness Friday’ Your Health stories.

Heart rate monitors are typically used for athletes in training, but the technology is becoming more popular for the average person and specifically – in a new type of workout.

Orangetheory Fitness, in St. Albert, is the first of its kind to open in Canada.

The Orangetheory workout is heart rate-based. The nearly 600 members of Orangetheory all wear heart rate monitors when they come in for a workout that includes the treadmill, rowing and weight training.

“A lot of folks don’t really achieve what they want to achieve in a gym setting so they love that they can come here and get a fantastic cardio workout, fantastic strength training workout and just achieve their fitness goals in a very effective way,” said Dominic McKenzie with Orangetheory.

Ed Kohel has been working up a sweat for four months.

His new addiction to fitness has helped him lose 65 pounds and he credits that to the heart rate monitoring system at Orangetheory, where he works out three to four times a week.

“It’s been very successful for me,” Kohel said.

Kohel keeps an eye on how hard he’s working with a heart rate monitor.

The monitor, which can light up green, orange or red, lets Kohel know when he’s working too hard, too little, or just enough to burn the fat.

“You kind of gauge your activity and even if you have a tough day at work, you can come down and watch yourself on the monitor to see if you’re working out as hard as you should be or if you’re really tired you just back off a little bit,” he said.

Kohel says heart rate monitors keeps him honest.

“A lot of times you go to a gym and you think you’ve had a good workout, but did you?” Kohel said.

“Did you think you had a weak workout and maybe you had a real hard one. It doesn’t lie and it emails it to you so now you have a record.”

McKenzie says Orangetheory is set to expand significantly in North America over the next year, with Edmonton-area expansion plans also in the works.

“In the U.S. they have close to 30 open. We have another 80 opening up in the next six to twelve months. Over the past two years it’s growing very fast,” McKenzie said.

“This is the first one in Canada. Our goal in the next three to five years is to open about eight to ten. We have plans to open one in Riverbend and Sherwood Park right away and then hopefully have one in Strathcona right away as well.”

'A great way, a n-lie way, to assess what you're doing'

Fitness expert Lisa Belanger says more people are starting to use the heart rate devices – outside of its typical setting.

“Heart rate monitors are typically done in a training atmosphere, so if you’re training for a sport or a run or something like that, some trainers will use heart rate monitors” Belanger said.

“It’s a great way to measure your progress and your success.”

It’s suggested people take part in about 150 minutes or two and a half hours of exercise per week.

Belanger says the heart rate monitors allows a person to track their progress.

“They’re a great way, a no-lie way, to assess what you’re doing,” Belanger said. “It is an objective measure. Instead of saying to someone, are you working hard? You can see it.”

McKenzie says monitoring heart rate during a workout gets better results.

“A lot of people don’t work out at the right intensity, so with the heart rate you can see during the class to make sure you’re working out to the level that is going to get you results and burn calories and burn fat,” McKenzie said.

“Your metabolism is higher, your energy is higher, you just have a really good feeling from doing a workout because you’ve elevated your heart rate that most people don’t operate at when they’re working out. You get some excellent health benefits at this level.”

Benefits of heart rate-based training

  • Track your progress
  • Have an objective measure for intensity
  • Allows you to challenge yourself with every workout
  • Avoids overtraining
  • Keep progressing

The Canadian Physical Activity Guideline suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate (50 to 70 per cent of heart rate maximum) exercise per week.

For those who choose to work at a vigorous level (70 to 85 per cent of your heart rate maximum) it would count as double the minutes.

It is said there are more benefits to vigorous exercise, however it is recommended to do a combination of vigorous and moderate activity.

Orange Theory Fitness says members burn an estimated 600-1000 calories per workout.

Click here to see Part 1 of Fitness Friday: A look at the growing popularity of Crossfit

Click here to see Part 2 of Fitness Friday: A look at the buzz surrounding ‘Barre’

With files from Carmen Leibel