Category Archives: Evaluation

Aerobic exercise mode

What is your preferred aerobic exercise mode? Do you even have one?

If you have decided to improve your cardiovascular fitness (heart, lung and circulatory fitness) what are your options?

Here is a list of 3 groups of exercise, intended to compare energy expenditure(calorie burning) and exercise intensity. If we are improving our aerobic fitness this means we are improving our ability to utilize oxygen. We need oxygen to transform stored energy into a form that our muscles can use to produce movement. When we move, we use calories. The number of calories we use will depend on our exercise intensity and the duration of this intensity. Check out the different aerobic modes of exercise to see what one you most likely would engage in.

(This following info was found in an article by Len Kravitz, exercise physiologist, called “Calorie Burning; It’s time to think “Outside the box” 7 Programs that burn a lot of Calories” and within that article he quotes the American College of Sports Medicine 2006 Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. I like this list of aerobic exercise modes because it is quite simple and to the point.)

Exercise mode Group I

Consistent intensity and energy expenditure that is not dependent on the participant’s skill level, eg. walking, stationary cycling, running, machine based stair climbing and elliptical training

Exercise mode Group 2

Rate of energy expenditure will vary, depending on the person’s performance ability. With higher skill levels, a person can work harder and longer. Examples include group-led aerobics(this is where Essentrics fits in), outdoor cycling, step aerobics, hiking, swimming, water aerobics, and inline skating.

Exercise mode Group 3

Highly variable in terms of energy expenditure, examples include basketball, raquet sports, and volleyball.

Now that you have thought about what is your preferred aerobic exercise mode, now lets look at effort.

Aerobic mode and exercise intensity (light, moderate or vigorous)

You can use the following to assess your exercise intensity:

Talk test (light=talking easy, moderate=short sentences, vigorous=1-2 words only)
Rate of perceived exertion (light=2/10, moderate=3-6/10, vigorous=7-8/10).
Percentage of Heart Rate Maximum (light=57-63%, moderate=64-76%, vigorous=77-95%)
Sweat and heat. When it comes to aerobic activity, heat is one of the by products of aerobic metabolism.

Goals in minutes: 150 moderate or 75 vigorous?

The World Health Organization has made these guidelines for weekly accumulated exercise.

Depending on your mode, you may be tapping into light, moderate or vigorous intensity levels, or a mixture of all three.

For activities in group 1 aerobic exercise mode, using the talk test or rate of perceived exertion is possible and easier than it would be for a variable level of effort. You can modify your workload (speed, resistance, incline on a treadmill) to attain your goal of moderate or vigorous intensity. Some warm up is necessary.

For the group 2 or 3 aerobic exercise modes, it will probably be easier to use a heart rate monitor and app to determine if you are hitting your weekly goals.

As always, you need to check with a health professional first if you have any concerns about exercising as it relates to any current health problems. You can also use something like PARQ Activity readiness questionaire or CSEP Get Active Questionaire to help you figure out if you are safe to exercise.

Aerobic mode
+exercise intensity
+weekly goal

If you have figured out these three things when it comes to your cardiovascular fitness, then now it’s time to put the plan into action.

Here is an example of how I attain my weekly goal of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise:

Treadmill jogging at moderate intensity 12 minutes 4X/week 48

Essentrics 2 x/week 20/60 minutes moderate intensity 40

HIIT style exercise class 20/60 moderate intensity 20

Circuit training leg machines plus bodyweight exercise 12 minutes 4X/week 48 (warm up is treadmill jogging)

Total 156

I will add that I had to recently modify my workouts to attain the 150 per week. I used a HR monitor and app to figure out exactly the impact of my weekly training and noted that the weighted/machine workouts needed higher intensity activities interspersed throughout (like mountain climber, jog on spot, step ups fast pace, and other plyometric type exercises) in order to keep my heart rate up. The pace of the machine exercises had to be sped up a bit as well(more volume in less time).

Does it have to be so complicated?

Of course not! I just like to work out the details and make calculations. You only need to keep it real if you want to have an effect on your current fitness level. Trust me. It is challenging but never impossible. Check out my blog on Keeping it real: Physical fitness and VO2max if you need a little peer support and pep talk.

If you are ready to take another step toward your fitness, check out my page Essentrics® with Andrea.

Until next time, onward and upward!

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!

Exercise evolution update and VO2 testing

Here is my most recent exercise evolution update and VO2 testing. I haven’t tested myself for many years and I was curious to see if my exercise evolution to date has been sufficient to maintain my cardiovascular fitness.

In short, VO2 is a measure of your cardiovascular fitness. The better your VO2, the more physical activity you can do on any given day, and in terms of longevity, the more you move now will have a significant impact on what you can do as the years progress. 

I assessed my VO2 because I do not do a lot of extended “cardio” sessions. As you will see, my “cardio” efforts are not at a high level, but instead a multitude of moderate physical activities and modest durations. In addition, given my age, there is an anticipated decline every decade in your aerobic capacity starting in your 30’s or 40’s. I plan to be a “mover” for the rest of my life, so having a good aerobic capacity is essential in maintaining an active lifestyle.

The CSEP 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for adults 18 to 64 years, and adults 65+ include the following recommendations when it comes to physical activity:
  • Moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activities such that there is an accumulation of at least 150 minutes per week 
  • Muscle strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least twice a week
  • Several hours of light physical activities, including standing
  • For adults 65+ it was recommended to include balance activities
Here is my exercise evolution update

I have included updated values on time spent at a moderate intensity on a weekly basis (MT) in each activity. Want know what moderate intensity is? See my next blog here for further details on how it was calculated.

Daily walks: 25 minutes each, 8-10 times/week. I am probably moving at a light to moderate pace……no, not really. When tested, I do not reach moderate intensity levels. MT=0

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

Hip and knee strengthening plus stretching, abs: 20 minutes 2-3 times/week. Moderate level 12 minutes x 3. MT=36

Essentrics: group exercise class (instructor) one hour 2 times/week: Moderate level 30% of the time MT=40

HIIT style online class: Once weekly moderate level 20 out of 60 minutes. MT=20

Stairs: 3 flights up/down at least once daily(30 sec each). MT=0

Standing: I stand frequently. Sitting much more that an hour at a time gets me fidgeting.

Total time weekly at moderate level or more=136.

I am a little embarrassed in that when I originally wrote this, I estimated 311 minutes/week. I was way off. But good to keep it real and know where there is room for improvement.

VO2 testing and results

I used the Modified Canadian Aerobic Fitness Test (mCAFT). It involves stepping up and down 2 steps(and sometimes one large step if you make it to the final stage), at progressively faster cadences. You calculate your heart rate max and then work through the progressive stages until you reach 85% of your maximum heart rate. Each stage is associated with an oxygen cost. Based on the stage you reach for your age group, you take the oxygen cost and input that into an equation that will give you your aerobic capacity result (VO2).

Well, I did well. I did not make it to the final stage. My perceived exertion by the end was approximately 17 out of 20. Part of the protocol is to check your blood pressure during recovery, which gratefully was better than expected.

So my result was 45 ml/kg-1/min-1 . My health benefit rating was excellent for my age range(50-59) and could be found in the excellent range for 30-39 year old’s. If I had made it to the last stage, my VO2 would have calculated to be 49 ml/kg-1/min-1. I would have then been in the Excellent 15-19 year old group. I will have to look into who the study sample was and how this came to be. In the meantime, I love finding out new info about myself that I can then re-assess at a later date for comparison. There are also other test protocols that I may try at a future date.

Until then, check out my Essentrics with Andrea page if you are thinking about being more active.

Alternatively, you can look at the structure of my current exercise evolution update and substitute your own activities that you currently engage in. You may be surprised as to how much you are doing for yourself.

Lastly, here is one more post on Keeping it real: physical fitness and VO2max. Movement no matter how small still rocks! Are you ready? Let’s GO!