Friday, January 30, 2015

Geeking Out - Part 2: General Fitness

My last post was about heart rate and calories burned in HEMA training - as determined by a heart rate monitor. In that post I talked about how this informs training for athletic development and performance improvement. Now I'm going to talk about what these numbers say about general fitness, because I know that many folks use HEMA as a part of their approach to general health.

Moderate versus Vigorous Exercise

The basic guidelines for cardiovascular exercise for general health recommend either 60 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Or some combination of the two - basically every minute of vigorous is equivalent to 2.5 minutes of moderate exercise.

Over the course of a 1-2 hour class my typical heart rate was in the moderate exercise range. The only part of my practices that boosted my pulse into the vigorous range is the intense warm-up that is a part of training at Athena School of Arms. However, most groups warm-up is only going to equate to a few minutes of vigorous exercise.

Good motor learning, just like learning anything else, happens best when you are alert and refreshed. Exhausting exercise will impair motor learning. As such, a large amount of vigorous exercise is not appropriate for for a technical training session.

In other words, HEMA training should be moderate exercise, and we shouldn't be pushing ourselves to make a significant part of it vigorous.

Physical Activity Goals

150 minutes per week of HEMA training is a perfectly reasonable objective. I suspect that everyone who isn't already doing that much would like to be able to.

If you are endeavoring to reach a complete program of physical activity for general health and wellness, then your HEMA training, a few times a week, is sufficient for cardiovascular health and fitness. While HEMA training is simultaneously neuromotor exercise - good for balance and agility.

As such you can dedicate remaining available time to strength training and flexibility.

The ACSM guidelines go on to say that greater cardiovascular health benefits are seen at double these amounts. This becomes more time consuming but can be met more easily with the inclusion of vigorous, dedicated cardio work in addition to HEMA training.

Calories Burned

HEMA training burns calories, of course. However, HEMA does not burn calories at an intense rate, as is to be expected from moderate exercise. I will go into details on estimating calories burned in my next post in the series.


HEMA training is a good way to meet both the cardiovascular and neuromotor training goals of a complete approach to physical activity for health. And, well, that's convenient and fun.

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