New Study Calls 'Fat-Burning Zone' on Treadmills Into Question

When you step onto the treadmill at the gym, you’re often greeted by a sticker on the machine detailing the “fat-burning zone,” or the ideal heart rate to burn fat for people your age. While it’s been regarded as a good roadmap to burn fat, a new study just found that it’s not so simple. 

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai released a new study outlining the real-life complexities when predicting how people can best burn fat. The study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Disease journal detailed their findings. They concluded that clinical exercise testing, which measures a person’s physiological response to exercise, may be a more useful tool to help individuals reach their fat loss goals. 

“People with a goal of weight or fat loss may be interested in exercising at the intensity which allows for the maximal rate of fat burning. Most commercial exercise machines offer a ‘fat-burning zone’ option, depending upon age, sex, and heart rate,” study lead author Hannah Kittrell said in a statement. “However, the typically recommended fat-burning zone has not been validated, thus individuals may be exercising at intensities that are not aligned with their personalized weight loss goals.”

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With that in mind, the team plans to look into whether people who receive a more personalized exercise plan achieve more weight and fat loss, as well as improvement of metabolic health markers that indicate risks for things like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. 

“We hope that this work will inspire more individuals and trainers to utilize clinical exercise testing to prescribe personalized exercise routines tailored to fat loss,” senior author Girish Nadkarni said. “It also emphasizes the role that data-driven approaches can have toward precision exercise.”

It turns out springing for a personal trainer may be worth it in more ways than one. 

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