To measure exercise intensity during your cardio session use a simple and effective technique called the “Talk Test.”
Using this method, the goal is to work at a level where you can answer a question, but not comfortably carry on a conversation. In simple terms, you’re working out too hard if you have to take a breath between every word you say. Conversely, you would be exercising too easily if you could sing the chorus of a song without breathing hard.
Work at an intensity that allows you to breathe comfortably and rhythmically throughout all phases of your workout. This will ensure a safe and comfortable level of exercise. If you are breathless, or can’t talk, you’re working too hard! Lower the resistance level and slow down. If you experience dizziness or lightheadedness, you may be overexerting yourself and should stop.
The talk test is subjective and quite useful in determining your aerobic intensity.
The Talk Test has been confirmed as a simple and accurate method of gauging intensity that doesn’t require any equipment or special training. Try your own Talk Test during your next workout. You may be able to replace your heart rate monitoring with this simple test during all of your workouts, or at least when counting your pulse is inconvenient.
Moderate Intensity vs. Vigorous Intensity
You may have seen recent talk in the media about the new guidelines for physical activity. The U.S. Government publishes these guidelines which discuss “moderate” and “vigorous” intensity. So what does that mean? Moderate intensity workouts provide health benefits such as reduced risk of high blood pressure, certain cancers, stroke and diabetes. Vigorous intensity workouts provide those benefits, plus aid in weight loss and increased muscle mass. Here is how to distinguish between the two:
Moderate activity ranges from 40-60% of someone’s max heart rate. For most people, that would be walking a mile in 14 to 23 minutes. Moderate-intensity activity causes a slightly increased rate of breathing, and it feels “light” to “somewhat hard”. Individuals doing this type of activity can easily carry on a conversation.
Vigorous activity elevates heart rate above 60% of your max heart rate. Walking a mile in less than 14 minutes, jogging, cycling, and playing endurance sports are all considered vigorous activity. These activities result in increased rates of breathing and sweating and feel “somewhat hard” to “very hard.”
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