A Simple Way To Gauge Exercise Intensity

We know better than to overdo it when exercising, but also want to make sure we are getting enough of a workout to help regulate our blood sugar, maintain a healthy weight, and protect our heart.

The Department of Health and Human Services suggests most healthy adults should get either:

  • A minimum of 150 weekly minutes of moderate aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking, swimming, lawn mowing), or
  • A minimum of 75 weekly minutes of more vigorous aerobic exercise (e.g., aerobic dancing, running).

A third option is to employ a combination of moderate and vigorous activities.

Our choice of exercise will depend on our fitness goals and health status, but it must generally be moderate or vigorous to do us significant good. To keep tabs on our workout intensity we can monitor our heart rate, or we can simply gauge the intensity by how our activity makes us feel.

Moderate vs Vigorous

Studies indicate that people’s perceived level of physical exertion compares well with their actual heart rates, so how we feel during exercise is a legitimate way of measuring intensity. Our perceived exertion level will also reflect our physical fitness; for instance, a brisk run will feel strenuous to someone who’s out of shape, and easy to a person who is more fit.

Moderate exercise feels somewhat difficult, and we reach this intensity level when:

  • Breathing becomes more rapid, but we are not out of breath.
  • After about 10 minutes of exercise we develop a light sweat.
  • We can converse while exercising, but cannot sing.

A vigorous workout feels more physically challenging, and we reach this intensity level when:

  • Breathing becomes deep, and rapid.
  • After just a few minutes of activity we develop a sweat.
  • We must take a breath after speaking just a few words.

If we find ourselves short of breath, in pain, or cannot exercise as long as anticipated we are likely pushing ourselves too hard, and need to slow down until our endurance catches up with our desire.

If Unsure...Ask

Anyone unsure of how best to track their exercise intensity should ask for and take a physician’s advice. For certain health conditions, doctors may recommend patients gauge exertion by measuring their heart rate, and some exercisers prefer this objective, more concise intensity indicator.

However, the rest of us can exercise safely and beneficially by utilizing common sense, and paying attention to how our activities make us feel.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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