Beat Weight Loss Plateau by Exercising in the Zone

Beat Weight Loss Plateau by Exercising in the Zone

By Barbra Hanna, DO, NCMP, 04/24/2021

If you are working out and not seeing results, you are probably not getting the most from your current exercise program. In fact, doing the same routine over and over again allows your body to get used to your activity level.

You need a change!  Instead of just working out, learn to train in your weight loss zone. Heart rate training is one of the most accurate methods for ensuring you are working out in the zone and on track to shed those pounds.

Historically, this type of training was primarily used for endurance athletes such as runners, cyclists, or swimmers to improve performance gradually over time.  The good news for us midlife ladies is heart rate zone training has emerged as an effective strategy for weight loss.  In fact, a well known company built their entire fitness platform based on it (I will not mention the name but I am sure you heard of the popular brand).

What exactly is heart rate zone training? The simple explanation is working out at an intensity that keeps your heart rate in a specific fat burning zone.  When you begin an exercise program, your body will respond by adapting to your routine. In essence, your body gets used to it. You then plateau with your weight loss program, get frustrated and throw your hands up in disgust.  This is when heart rate zone training comes in handy.

Let’s take a look at how it works. A woman starts an exercise program that includes walking on the treadmill at 3.5 mph for 40 minutes, 3x/ a week. She is motivated to keep this routine up for 10 weeks. Her body will get used to this routine and therefore will burn less calories each week. Burning less calories each week leads to a slowing of results and frustration.

Let’s have that same woman use heart rate zone training.  She works out with the same 3x/ a week 40 minute program.  Instead of just walking at 3.5 mph for 40 minutes, she maintains her heart rate at 115 BPM for 40 minutes by continuously increasing the speed and/or incline of the treadmill. She will not plateau and will continue to burn calories at the same rate over time.

There are many great options to calculate your heart rate zone for weight loss on the web.

You can also use this simple formula as a guide:

Your heart rate zone for weight loss is 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.

220bpm - your age= maximum heart rate (MHR)

MHR x 60-70%= heart rate zone for weight loss1

For example:

A 54 year old woman.

220 - 54= 166bpm

Her weight loss heart rate zone would be 100-116 bpm


When you are working out in a HR zone, it is all about doing whatever it takes to get in that zone. You choose - treadmill, bike, elliptical, ect. Mix it up, you're not limited to one type of exercise.  Heart rate zone training provides you the ultimate flexibility to personalize your exercise program while maintaining weight loss.

The recipe for weight loss success is a combination of a healthy diet and exercise. Resistance and aerobic exercise on a consistent basis, at least 3-4 times a week on average in your zone is the goal. Now more than ever, it is easier with wearable technology to monitor your HR stay in your zone and lose unwanted weight.

If you are just beginning an exercise program, it is advised to check with your healthcare provider for any health recommendations or safety concerns.


  1. Carey DG. Quantifying differences in the "fat burning" zone and the aerobic zone: implications for training. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Oct;23(7):2090-5. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bac5c5. PMID: 19855335.

The content is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.