Here’s what’s on the healthspan menu today:
- The Textbook Definition of Zone 2
- The Health Benefits of Zone 2
- FAQs on Zone 2 Training
The Textbook Definition of Zone 2
The textbook definition of Zone 2 is the highest level of energy you can put out while keeping lactate below 2 mmol/L.
When you exercise, your cells convert glucose or fatty acids into ATP. ATP is your body’s fuel source.
While at rest or during low-intensity exercise, your body is efficient at producing ATP using oxygen (your “aerobic system”). However, as intensity increases, the demand for ATP increases.
In order for your body to meet the increased energy demand, it produces ATP without oxygen (your anaerobic system) and one of the byproducts is lactate.
Once you go above Zone 2 and do higher intensity work, the amount of lactate reaches a point where your body can no longer clear all of it and you’ll “feel the burn” and have to stop.
The best way to know if you are truly in Zone 2 is to measure your lactate levels with a lactate meter and make sure you are under 2 mmol/L while exercising. Unfortunately, that isn’t cheap and requires you to prick your finger for blood each time you want to test.
The Health Benefits of Zone 2
A hallmark of aging is mitochondrial function deterioration. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.
As we age, our mitochondria become dysfunctional and we become more insulin resistant which contributes to weight gain and other health issues.
Dr. Luks says, “Most of the chronic diseases which will lead to our demise have a common root cause– poor metabolic health due to poor mitochondrial function.“
Zone 2 exercise is the only zone that efficiently and effectively improves mitochondrial performance.
In addition, here are some other health benefits of Zone 2 training:
- Increase the number of mitochondria
- Increase mitochondrial efficiency
- Increase metabolic flexibility (use fat or glucose as fuel)
- Decrease your resting heart rate
- Reduce blood pressure
HIIT (high-intensity interval training), as popular as it has become, does not trigger these mitochondrial adaptations, no matter how hard or intense you train.
It’s not about intensity, but the longer duration that triggers these Zone 2 health benefits. How long? Most experts say at least 60 to 90 minutes per session is needed.
FAQs on Zone 2 Training
These were some of the questions I had when I first started Zone 2 training.
How often should you do Zone 2 training?
Ideally, 3 to 4 sessions a week. This is where you’ll see the most benefits.
How long should each Zone 2 training session be?
60-90 minutes. If you are untrained, start with 30 minutes and slowly increase the duration.
How do I know when I’m in Zone 2?
A lactate meter is best, but the next best is to use a heart rate monitor and work around 60-70% of your max heart rate. A good guideline is you should be able to comfortably carry on a conversation while in Zone 2.
What exercises should I use for Zone 2?
Anything you can do for a long duration like running or cycling without spiking your heart rate can work.
Can I do Zone 2 and strength training on the same day?
You can, but to maximize strength it’s better to do zone 2 first and then strength training.