Knowing how to gauge your exercise intensity will help you get the most out of your sessions.

Are you working hard or scarcely working while you exercise? Exercising at the proper intensity can help you get the most out of your physical activity by ensuring that you aren’t pushing yourself too hard or too light. Here’s an explanation of what exercise intensity implies and how to get the most out of your workout.

How strenuous should your workout be?

Aerobic exercise. Get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity throughout each week, such as brisk walking, swimming, or lawn mowing, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, such as jogging or aerobic dancing.

Even a little physical activity is beneficial, and cumulative activity throughout the day provides health advantages.

Strength training is a good thing to do. At least twice a week, do strength training for all major muscle groups. Consider free weights, weight machines, or sports like rock climbing or heavy gardening that require you to use your own body weight. Squats, planks, and lunges are also good options. Shoot for doing one set of each exercise with a weight or resistance level that leaves you exhausted after 12 to 15 repetitions.

For the best results, keep your exercise intensity at a moderate to an intense level. The more intense or longer your activity is for weight loss, the more calories you burn.

It’s still necessary to strike a balance. You run the danger of pain, injury, and burnout if you overdo it. If you’re new to exercising, start with a low-intensity workout. Gradually increase the intensity to a moderate or intense level.

Consider why you exercise in the first place. Do you want to get in better shape, lose weight, train for a competition, or do all of the above? Your response will aid in determining the optimal exercise intensity level.

Keep your expectations in check, and don’t push yourself too hard or too quickly. Fitness is a lifelong pursuit, not a race to the finish line. If you have any medical concerns or are unsure about how hard you should exercise, consult your doctor.

Recognizing the Importance of Exercise Intensity

Exercise intensity is related to how difficult an activity feels to you when you’re conducting aerobic activity like walking or biking. Your breathing and pulse rate, whether you’re sweating, and how weary your muscles feel all indicate the severity of your workout.

Exercise intensity refers to how difficult physical activity feels to you while you’re performing it – your perceived exertion. Your perceived exertion level may differ from what another person experiences while performing the same workout. For example, what you consider a difficult run may appear to a more fit person to be a simple workout.

Your pulse rate. Your heart rate gives you a more objective picture of how hard you’re working out. In general, the higher your heart rate while exercising, the more intense the workout.

It is possible that your perceived exertion does not correspond to your heart rate level, and this varies from person to person. However, it can be used as a general reference to determine your level of exertion. Your heart rate is probably higher than usual if you think you’re working hard.

You can use any method to determine the intensity of an exercise. If you prefer technology, you can use an activity tracker with a heart rate monitor to measure your heart rate. You’ll probably be alright without a monitor if you feel in tune with your body and your degree of exertion.

How Are You Feeling?

Here are some indicators to help you determine the intensity of your workout.

Moderately Strenuous Exercise

Moderate activity is challenging. Here are some indicators that your exercise intensity is moderate:

  • You’re not out of breath, yet your breathing quickens.

  • After about 10 minutes of exertion, you start to break out in a mild sweat.

  • You’re able to hold a conversation but not sing.

Vigorous Exercise

Vigorous exercise is taxing on the body. Here are some indicators that your exercise intensity is high:

  • Your respiration is quick and deep.

  • After only a few minutes of movement, you start to sweat.

  • Without pausing to take a breath, you can’t say more than a few words.

Exercising Excessively

  • If you find that you’re consistently struggling to keep up with your exercises, it’s likely because the intensity is too high for your fitness level. If you find yourself out of breath or in pain during workouts, this might be a sign that the exercise is too intense based on where you are at right now. Back off a little and gradually increase the intensity.

Using Your Heart Rate to Determine the Intensity

Another way to determine the intensity of your workout is to monitor how fast your heart beats during physical activity. To apply this method, you must first determine your maximal heart rate, which is the upper limit of your cardiovascular system’s ability to withstand physical exercise.

Your maximal heart rate is your age subtracted from 220. If you’re 55 years old, subtract 55 from 220, and that’s 165 as your maximum heart rate. Your target zone can be computed after knowing this number – it should not exceed 160 bpm during exercise while also having a lower end at 100 bpm to minimize the risk of injury or fatigue.

According to the American Heart Association, a goal heart rate should be:

  • Moderate intensity exercise: 50 percent to 70 percent of maximal heart rate

  • The intensity of vigorous exercise: 70 percent to 85 percent of maximal heart rate

Aim for a heart rate slightly lower than the target zone if you’re not in shape or just starting an exercise program. Then progressively increase the level of difficulty. Choose the higher end of the zone if you’re healthy and wish to work out at a high intensity.

You Can Calculate the Target Heart Rate Zone Yourself

Let’s imagine you’re 45 years old and wish to use the HRR method to determine your goal heart rate zone for exercise. Take the following steps:

  • Subtract your age from 220 to get — your maximum heart rate.

  • Then, first thing in the morning, check your resting heart rate. Let’s say the heart rate is 80 beats per minute. Subtract 80 from 175 to arrive at your HRR. You have an HRR of 95.

  • To achieve 146.5, multiply 95 by 0.7 (70 percent), then add your resting heart rate of 80.

  • To get 80.75, multiply 95 by 0.85 (85%), then add your resting heart rate of 80 to get 160.75.

In this case, for intense activity, your ideal heart rate zone is 146.5 to 160.75 beats per minute.

What are the signs that you’re in the zone?

So, how do you know when you’ve reached your goal heart rate zone? While exercising, you can use an activity tracker to monitor your heart rate on a frequent basis.

Alternatively, you can check your heart rate while exercising by following these steps:

  • Take a break for a moment.

  • Count your heart rate for 15 seconds by placing two fingers on the thumb side of your wrist while pressing down over the radial artery. Place two fingers on a different part of your body, such as your neck or chest, to feel if there is an increase in pulse. You may also count how many beats per minute (BPM) you have while doing this process.

  • Calculate your beats per minute by multiplying this amount by four.

Adjust your exercise intensity if you’re under or over your goal heart rate zone.

Tips for Lowering Your Heart Rate

It’s crucial to remember that the maximal heart rate is just a guideline. Your maximal heart rate may be greater or lower, sometimes by as much as 15 to 20 beats per minute. If you want something more specific, talk to an exercise physiologist or a personal trainer about your target heart rate zone.

This kind of precision is usually only of concern to elite athletes. They might also employ slightly different computations to account for variances in target heart rate zones between men and women. Most casual athletes don’t need separate computations for men and women because the variances are so minor.

Also, keep in mind that a variety of medications, including some blood pressure medications, might lower your maximum heart rate, which can subsequently lower your target heart rate zone. Ask your doctor if any of your drugs or medical problems require you to use a lower target heart rate zone.

In a study, interval training – with brief bursts of exercise that last from 15 to 60 seconds and longer sessions throughout your workout – has been shown to be well tolerated. It’s even safe for people who have heart disease or diabetes type 2. This sort of exercise is also very good for improving cardiovascular fitness and weight loss.

Reap the benefits of high-intensity exercise.

If you exercise at the right intensity for your health and fitness goals, you’ll get the most out of your exercises. Pick up the pace if you’re not feeling tired or your heart rate is too low. If you think you’re pushing yourself too hard or your heart rate is too high, take a breather.

Because some individuals may have certain risk factors like diabetes or heart disease, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor and discuss any concerns he/she may have before you begin a new fitness program.

If you are in the Asheville, NC area and interested in getting CONNECTED with a local physical therapist for any sports injuries that may occur, reach out to us here at 1on1 Physical Therapy!

(828) 785-8388

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