Moderate intensity exercise. Where do you find yourself?

Moderate intensity exercise. Where do you find yourself? What does it take to accomplish this? My last post on exercise evolution and VO2 testing highlighted how much time I spent at a moderate level of intensity when exercising (MT). The point being was to accumulate 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous intensity level exercise, according to the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines set out by the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiologists for optimal health.

So how do you know if you are working at a moderate intensity? There are several ways to evaluate this. I found a nice chart in the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiologists Physical Activity Training for Health resource manual comparing the following different methods and their corresponding intensity levels.

Talk test:

If I am working at a moderate level I should be able to speak in short sentences only. Talking easily would qualify as “light” intensity.

Perceived exertion:

On a scale of 0 to 10 the moderate level ranges from 3-6/10. I find the scale of 0-10 difficult to discern for myself.

On a scale of 0-20 a score of 14-17/20 is considered moderate. Given my recent VO2 testing, and reaching 85 % of my predicted heart rate maximum, I rated my perceived exertion to be 17/20 in that moment of time. This was quite useful, as I recognize this level of exertion from the exercise that I already do. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, there is no denying it and it can’t be sustained for long periods of time.

Percentage of heart rate maximum

The goal would be 64-76% of your heart rate maximum required to be exercising at a moderate intensity.

Reality check anyone?

I compared my own perceptions of my exercise intensity against an objective measure (percentage of my heart rate maximum). For me moderate intensity is somewhere between 109 bpm(beats per minute) and 129 bpm.

Here is my update highlighting the time spent at a moderate level (MT) of exercise intensity in each activity on a weekly basis.

As you will see, it is significantly less than I had anticipated:

Daily walks: My maximum heart rate during those walks was 105. MT=0 (initial estimate  120 min/week. Whoopsy daisy!).

I re-evaluated the talk test on a second trial, and I wouldn’t say I could talk easily (light intensity), but I did not need to break up my sentences(moderate=”short sentences only”)

Treadmill jogging: 1 mile @ 5.3 mph 3-4 times/week. MT=40

Hip and knee strengthening plus stretching, abs: 12 out of 20 minutes 2-3 times/week at a moderate intensity. MT=36 (previous estimate 40)

Essentrics®: group exercise class (instructor) one hour 2 times/week. I took some old data from my heart rate monitoring app. 20 out of 60 minutes were at a moderate level of intensity. MT=40 (previous estimate 60 min/week)

HIIT style online class: 1 hour once weekly. 20 out of 60 minutes at a moderate level or more. MT=20 (previous estimate 30 minutes)

Stairs: 2 flights up/down at least once daily. It actually only takes 30 seconds to go up or down, not enough time for the heart rate to change much. MT=0 (previous estimate 21 min/week)

Back to reality

Goal: 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous intensity level exercise

Current time for moderate intensity level activity: 136 minutes per week.

If you look at my previous estimates, you will see how I over estimated my weekly time by more than double! That’s OK. I am still moving a lot. I just need to increase my effort a little bit more, here and there.

So what about my lighter intensity daily walks ? And what about the other 40 minutes of my Essentrics or HIIT classes? Strengthening and resistance training? Stairs?? Shouldn’t they count for something?

Well of course they do! Remember exercise specificity. What do you want and what do you need: improved strength, endurance, cardiovascular fitness, joint mobility and/or flexibility? Maybe you have other reasons to exercise. Check out my post on exercise specificity for further clarification of these terms with some examples provided.

If you are considering getting back into exercise or rounding out your routine, and you want to give Essentrics® a try, check out my Essentrics with Andrea page for more information.

Are you ready to move? OK, let’s go!