Moderate Intensity Exercise Overview

How to Work at a Moderate Intensity

people exercising on treadmills at gym
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Moderate intensity exercise refers to a level of exertion during exercise that raises your heart rate to a point where you sweat and feel you're working, yet you're able to carry on a conversation. The Department of Health recommends working at a moderate level for at least 30 minutes daily if your goal is to improve your health and lose weight, but how do you know how hard you're working?

Ways to Measure Intensity

There are a variety of ways to determine what your exercise intensity is.

These include:

  • The Talk Test - If you can carry on a breathy conversation while you're working out, you're probably working at a moderate level. If you can chat away without skipping a syllable then you're not exercising hard enough.
  • Rate of Perceived Exertion - To use this method, you will want to rate how hard you are working by matching how you feel and your level of fatigue during your workout to this Perceived Exertion Chart. A moderate intensity would be around a Level 5.

    Studies have found that perceived exertion ratings closely reflect what your heart rate is doing. This means that if you perceive that your exertion is high, then it is very possible that your heart rate is also high.
  • Percentage of Your Maximum Heart Rate - For this method, find your maximum heart rate by using this formula: 206.9 - (0.67 x age) and work at 70-80% of your maximum heart rate to stay at a moderate intensity. For example, for a 40 year old person, maximum heart rate would be 180 (e.g., 206.9 - (0.67 x 40)). That person would keep their heart rate between 126 bpm (e.g., 180 x 70%) and 144 bpm (e.g., 180 x 80%) to stay at a moderate pace.

    How Often Should You Do Moderate Intensity Exercise?

    You should be able to get in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity everyday for health. And before you think you cannot fit it in to your schedule, you should know that it doesn't have to be done all at once. Ten minutes walking stairs here, then 10 minutes playing hopscotch with your kids there, and walking with a co-worker at lunch for another 10 minutes will satisfy your daily 30 minutes.

    But if you want to look past, just being healthy, you need to decide what your fitness goals are and what your current fitness level is to get the real answer. If you want to be fitter, moderate intensity is often recommended, but that can get boring and it can stall your progress. Try having a variety of workouts at a variety of intensities so that you work all of your energy systems.  For example, working at a high intensity can actually help you burn more calories in less time than a moderate intensity activity in that same amount of time.

    Examples of Moderate Intensity Exercise

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