When we talk about exercise intensity, we are talking about how ‘hard’ you are exercising. We typically describe exercise intensity as low, moderate, or vigorous. We have previously mentioned that you want to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intense exercise a week. But what does this mean?
We determine intensity through a variety of measurements. Today we will talk about three: Target heart rate, the talk test, and the perceived exertion scale.
We know that our heart rate typically increases as the intensity of exercise increases. Therefore, you can track and guide your intensity by calculating something we call the Target Heart Rate (THR) range. To be considered moderate, your THR should be 50-70% of your maximum heart rate, which is just 220 minus your age. Here is an example chart with some ages and the THR associated with each age.
|Age (years)||Target range (50 – 70% of maxHR) heart beats per minute|
|20||100 – 140|
|25||98 – 137|
|30||95 – 133|
|35||93 – 130|
|40||90 – 126|
|45||88 – 123|
|50||85 – 119|
|55||83 – 116|
|60||80 – 112|
|65||78 – 109|
Note: Some medications can alter your heart rate response to exercise, so make sure you discuss the medications you are taking and how they could affect your exercise plans with your doctor. It may be necessary to use another option for monitoring exercise intensity if you are taking certain medications.
The talk test is a simple, no numbers necessary method to determine your exercise intensity. As a rule of thumb:
The perceived exertion scale is a method of rating your intensity based on your body’s physical signs of exercise, such as your breathing rate, muscle fatigue, and sweating rate. Using a simple 0-10 scale, intensity is measured in the following manner:
|2||Barely there||Sensation of movement|
|3||Moderate||Stronger sensation of movement|
|4||Somewhat hard||Warmth or light sweating|
|7||Very hard||Moderate sweating, but can still talk|
|8||Extremely hard||Heavy sweating, can’t talk|
|9||Maximum effort||Very heavy sweating, can’t talk|
Why It’s Important: Understanding how hard we are exercising allows us to know when to push ourselves and when to take it a bit easier. We can also use increased intensity in our workouts to increase our caloric burn, leading to more weight loss!
Your Challenge: During your workouts this week, aim for at least two workouts at moderate intensity (50-70% of THR, you can talk but not sing, or 5-7 on the exertion scale). Moving forward, try to increase the number of moderate-intensity workouts each week until you have 4-5 a week.