Intense or moderate activity? Easily measure your exercise intensity

Want to know how hard you work? Here’s how to find out.

When exercise becomes a regular habit, it’s time to ask yourself how much (and how hard) you’re actually moving. The WHO recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week, or a combination of the two. To lose weight, experts recommend doubling these numbers. But like many people, you may be confused about whether your activities qualify as moderate or vigorous.

There are two basic ways to measure exercise intensity:

1 The way you feel

Exercise intensity is a subjective measure of how hard you feel while doing physical activity, or perceived exertion. Your perceived level of exertion may be different from what another person feels doing the same exercise. For example, what feels like a hard run may feel like an easy jog to someone who is in better shape.

2 Your heart rate

Your heart rate provides a more objective way to measure your exercise intensity. In general, the higher your heart rate during physical activity, the higher the intensity.

Studies show that perceived exertion correlates well with your heart rate. So if you think you’re working hard, your heart rate is probably high.

Objective estimation of the intensity of the effort

To measure your exercise intensity, you can:

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Take the speech test:

If you can hold a conversation in short sentences, you’re probably in the moderate intensity zone. You will breathe faster, you will sweat slightly and your muscles will be solicited. If you work at a vigorous intensity, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without catching your breath. (If you can sing while working out, you’re probably in the low intensity range…so turn up the intensity).

Calculate your target heart rate

Use this formula to calculate your target heart rate:
220 minus your age = your maximum heart rate
Your maximum heart rate multiplied by 0.6 = your lower limit
Your maximum heart rate multiplied by 0.85 = your upper limit

During exercise, check your pulse to determine your heart rate. If it’s within the target range, you’re exercising at about the right level. If you have trouble finding your pulse and counting during exercise, it might be a good idea to invest in a heart rate monitor.


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