The NY Times recently published an article that described research in young, fit people (age 18-35). These folks need to get out of breath and even have difficulty talking before they reach a good target heart rate (pulse) and make enough lactic acid to improve their fitness.
But, what if you’ve been a couch potato, and are just now motivated to start walking? I actually believe that the “talk test” is a good guide. One mistake people make starting out exercising is to overdo it, then get discouraged. If we are patient and consistent, good things will follow. I lost 125 lbs without the agony seen on “The Biggest Loser.”
I also believe that using a heart rate monitor is good for folks starting out, mostly so that they don’t overdo it. Click here to see your target heart rate based on your age. If just starting out, I would recommend walking to keep pulse around 115 per minute.
BTW, who should see a doctor before starting an exercise regimen? Once again, I refer you to the Mayo Clinic website, which has great patient education materials.