When you work out, are you putting in a lot of effort or not really making an effort? Doing physical activity at the appropriate intensity level can maximize the benefits you get from exercise — ensuring you aren’t exerting yourself too much or too little. This is an overview of what it means to work out with intensity, and how to optimize your exercise routine.
Choosing Your Exercise Intensity
How hard should you be exercising? The Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines for most healthy adults:
- Aerobic activity. You should aim to do at least 150 minutes a week of activities like walking quickly, swimming, or mowing the lawn, or if you want to do more energetic activities, then do 75 minutes a week of activities such as running or aerobic dancing. You could also opt for a mixture of moderate and strong exercise. It would be advantageous to complete this task in the span of seven days. Increasing your exercise to more than five hours of moderate aerobic activity a week will result in greater health gains.
Any amount of exercise is beneficial, and the advantages of being active throughout the day accumulate.
- Strength training. Do strength training for all major muscle groups at least twice a week. Consider free weights, weight machines, or activities that use your own body weight — such as rock climbing or heavy gardening. Or try squats, planks, or lunges. Aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.
In order to obtain the most advantage, your physical activity level must usually be either moderate intensity or vigorous intensity. For shedding pounds, the greater the intensity or duration of your physical activity, the more calories you can burn.
Balance is still important. Excessive behavior can lead to discomfort, accident, and fatigue. Begin with a lower level if you are inexperienced with exercising. Gradually build up to a moderate or vigorous intensity.
Consider your reasons for exercising. Are you looking to enhance your physical ability, shed some pounds, practice for an event, or do all of the above? The response you provide will assist in calculating the appropriate intensity of physical activity.
Don’t set goals that are too ambitious and don’t attempt too much in a short period of time. Staying in shape is something that requires dedication and effort over the long term, not something that can be achieved in a short amount of time. If you have any health problems or are uncertain about how hard your workouts should be, consult with your physician.
Understanding Exercise Intensity
When you are participating in aerobic exercises such as walking or biking, the difficulty level correlates to how strenuous it feels to you. How hard you breathe and the rate of your heartbeat can demonstrate how intense your exercise is, as well as if your body is sweating and how fatigued your muscles become.
There are two basic ways to measure exercise intensity:
- How you feel. Exercise intensity is a subjective measure of how hard physical activity feels to you while you’re doing it — your perceived exertion. Your perceived exertion level may be different from what someone else feels doing the same exercise. For example, what feels to you like a hard run can feel like an easy workout to someone who’s fitter.
- Your heart rate. Your heart rate offers a more objective look at exercise intensity. In general, the higher your heart rate during physical activity, the higher the exercise intensity.
One’s experience of physical strain may not necessarily coincide with their heartbeat, and this hinges on the particular person. This statement can be used to gauge the amount of effort you are putting in. If you feel as though you are putting in a great effort, your heart rate is likely higher than what is normal.
You can use either way of gauging exercise intensity. If you are enthusiastic about technology, you can monitor your heart rate using an activity monitor that has a heart rate detector. If you sense that your body is in sync with the amount of work you are doing, you will probably be successful in performing the task without monitoring.
Gauging Intensity by How You Feel
Here are some hints to assist you in determining the intensity of your workout.
Moderate exercise intensity
Moderate activity feels somewhat hard. Here are clues that your exercise intensity is at a moderate level:
- Your breathing quickens, but you’re not out of breath.
- You develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes of activity.
- You can carry on a conversation, but you can’t sing.
Vigorous exercise intensity
Vigorous activity feels challenging. Here are clues that your exercise intensity is at a vigorous level:
- Your breathing is deep and rapid.
- You develop a sweat after only a few minutes of activity.
- You can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
Beware of pushing yourself too hard too often. If you are feeling out of breath, hurting, or not able to work out for as long as you had hoped, the intensity of your exercise might be too intense for you given your current level of fitness. Back off a bit and build intensity gradually.
How to Determine Intensity Level Using Heart Rate and Talk Test
Measuring Heart Rate is just one solution for evaluating the intensity of your workout. While you are reading this eBook, your heartbeat is at a certain rate. You can sense your heartbeat if you place your index and middle fingers on your neck. If you count how many times your heart beats in a sixty-second period, you will have an estimate of your ordinary heart rate. Getting an accurate determination of one’s resting heart rate requires more exact measurements, but let’s use this number as our guide for the time being. Spend a short amount of time estimating your resting heart rate at this moment. It is likely that your non-active heart rate is somewhere between 60 to 90 beats a minute. The better shape your heart and lungs are in, the LESS your number shall be! Why? Your heart requires less effort to spread blood throughout your system if you are physically fit, resulting in fewer heartbeats.
You may have encountered heart rate monitors on exercise machines like treadmills and stair climbers. You may have noticed people wearing fitness-tracking gadgets like the “Apple Watch” and the “Fitbit”. These tools calculate the intensity of the person’s workout by determining how often their heart rate reaches a beat in a minute. This device calculates your “Maximum heart rate” by subtracting your age in years from 220. If you are 20 years of age, the apparatus assumes your highest heart rate will be 200 pulses per minute, which is calculated by subtracting 20 from 220. The intensity level of your heart rate during exercise should not be as high as it currently is. As an alternative, you can aim for specific “target heart rate zones.” If you want to exercise at a moderate rate of effort, you should aim for a heart rate that falls between 50-70% of your maximum. If you are hoping to exercise at a vigorous rate, you should aim to have your heart rate at a level between 75-85% of the top rate it can reach. If you take the example of 20 years ago if your maximum heart rate is 200, then 100 beats per minute would be 50% of the max and 140 beats per minute would be 70% of the max. This informs you that if you measure your heart rate while exercising and it is in the range of 100 to 140 beats per minute, it means you are doing an activity at a “moderate intensity” level.
An alternate, albeit less exact, approach to ascertain the level of intensity is the “talk test”. Essentially, if you can keep up a dialog while you are doing physical activity, then it is likely that you are undergoing an average level of exertion. If you are so exhausted that you are unable to have a discussion, then it is probable that you are doing a strenuous level of physical activity. Many people favor this technique because it does not necessitate any apparatus nor does it force one to pause to tally their heartbeats.
Specific fitness is a person’s ability to carry out a particular task in an efficient manner, such as a sport or military service. Getting prepared explicitly through practice enables athletes to succeed at their sports. Examples are:
- 100m sprint: in a sprint, the athlete must be trained to work anaerobically throughout the race, an example of how to do this would be interval training.
- Middle distance running: athletes require both speed and endurance to gain the benefit of this training. The hardworking muscles are at their peak for a longer period of time as they are being used at that level for a longer period of time.
- Marathon: in this case, the athlete must be trained to work aerobically and their endurance must be built-up to a maximum.
- Hill sprints: requires a level of fitness, to begin with, the exercise is particularly good for the leg muscles.
- Sand running: creates less strain on leg muscles than running on grass or concrete because sand collapses beneath the foot softening the landing. Sand training is an effective way to lose weight and become fit as it’s proven you need more effort to run on soft sand than on a hard surface.
- Aqua jogging: is a form of exercise that decreases strain on joints and bones. The water supplies minimal impact to muscles and bones which is good for those recovering from injury. Furthermore, the resistance of the water as one jog through it provides an enhanced effect of exercise
For physical fitness to have a positive effect on an individual’s health, the body will respond with an unspecified stimulus due to exertion. When done correctly, exercise can be extremely beneficial to one’s health when the intensity, duration, and frequency are all taken into account. The individual could eventually be in better spirits, however, it could take some time for the physiological consequences on the human anatomy to appear and possibly years before the full results will be seen. In order for it to be effective instruction, physical activity must put a strain on a particular bodily system or tissue. For ongoing progress, there must be a gradual rise in demand over a prolonged time frame. The three key concepts of this type of physical activity are over-stressing the body, working on targeted muscles, and increasing the level of difficulty over time. These ideas are applicable to both promoting health and increasing physical labor capabilities.
One’s ability to utilize oxygen during exercise can be gauged with the help of VO2 max, which is a measure of how much oxygen the body can take in. Exercises that involve elevating the heart rate so as to boost the body’s ability to use oxygen are known as cardiorespiratory training. This type of workout is a crucial part of any exercise plan, from expert sportspeople to the average person. Also, it helps increase stamina. Examples are:
- Elliptical Training – This is a stationary exercise machine used to perform walking, or running without causing excessive stress on the joints. This form of exercise is perfect for people with achy hips, knees, and ankles.
- Walking – Moving at a fairly regular pace for a short, medium, or long distance.
- Swimming – Using the arms and legs to keep oneself afloat and moving either forwards or backward. This is a good full-body exercise for those who are looking to strengthen their core while improving cardiovascular endurance.
- Cycling – Riding a bicycle typically involves longer distances than walking or jogging. This is another low-stress exercise on the joints and is great for improving leg strength.
Target Heart Rate Tips
It bears emphasizing that maximum heart rate is just an approximation. Your maximum heart rate could be up to 15-20 beats more or less than the usual measurement. To get a more precise idea of your target heart rate, it may be wise to talk to either an exercise physiologist or a personal trainer.
This level of precision mainly only matters to highly skilled athletes. They could also employ calculations that factor in the distinctions in desired heart rate ranges between males and females. The discrepancies between male and female athletes are so minuscule that the majority of recreational athletes don’t need separate computations for the two genders.
It is also important to keep in mind that certain medications, such as those prescribed to reduce blood pressure, can reduce your highest heart rate, which in turn reduces your optimal heart rate zone. Inquire with your physician if it is necessary for you to employ a lower desired heart rate region owing to any of your medicinal drugs or health issues.
Studies suggest that doing brief periods (around 15 to 60 seconds) of more intense exercise and then following it with longer, less harrowing exercise in one workout is tolerable. It is suitable even for those with cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes. This kind of practice is extremely efficient when it comes to strengthening your lungs and heart and helping you slim down.
Reap the Rewards
You will achieve the best results from your exercise sessions if you are performing at the right level of intensity according to your health and fitness objectives. If you don’t notice any strain or your heart rate is too low, increase your speed. If you feel like you’re overworking yourself or your heart rate is too high, decrease the intensity of your activity.
It may be wise to consult with a physician prior to beginning an intense physical activity routine. The person you are speaking with may propose that certain tests be done first. This could apply to those who suffer from diabetes or more significant risks for cardiovascular diseases, as well as to males who are over the age of 45 and women beyond the age of 55.