How to Choosing an Exercise Intensity

Choosing an Exercise Intensity.

If you are new to exercise and want to start a new workout program, you may be wondering what level of intensity is appropriate for your goals and fitness level. Many people are unsure of how to define intensity levels and avoid exercises labeled as vigorous intensity due to a fear of injury or a lack of ability.

It is my job as a personal trainer and exercise physiologist to help explain these terms and concepts in a more understandable manner. In this article, I will define light, moderate, and vigorous intensity so that you, as a physically active individual, are more informed and comfortable with what you are doing in your daily exercises.

1) To find your estimated HR max, subtract your age from 220.

220-22= 198 bpm. My estimated HR max is 198 beats per minute.

2) To find your resting heart rate, use a radial pulse or HR monitor. My resting HR is 60 beats per minute. I will now subtract my resting HR from my estimated heart rate max to determine my heart rate reserve.

198 – 60 =138 beats per minute.

3) Now I must use the heart rate reserve (HRR) and multiply it by the percentage equivalent to the intensity you are aiming to reach.

a. Light Intensity <50% HRR

b. Moderate Intensity 50-70% HRR

c. Vigorous Intensity 70%-85% HRR

In this case, I would like to exercise at moderate intensity. Therefore, I will multiply my HRR by 50% to get my lowest HR value and then by 70% to get my highest value to remain within that range for moderate intensity.

138 beats per minute X.50 = 69 beats per minute.

138 beats per minute X.70 = 96.6 beats per minute.

4) The last step in this process to get your final range of target HR reserve is to add your resting HR back to the HRR percentage. This allows the equation to consider your cardio endurance level at rest and adjusts accordingly. Below, I have demonstrated how to do so and have found my target HRR range for moderate intensity exercise.

69 beats per minute + 60 beats per minute = 129 beats per minute

96.6 beats per minute + 60 beats per minute = 156.6 beats per minute.

Target HR Range for Moderate Intensity = 129 bpm – 156.6 bpm.


Benefits of Light Intensity Exercise.

Light-intensity exercise is extremely beneficial to the elderly. It enables them to stay physically active when physical limitations or health concerns prevent them from engaging in moderate or vigorous activity. Light intensity is defined as anything less than 50% of the target heart rate reserve and provides numerous health benefits, particularly to deconditioned individuals. An Oregon State University study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that elderly people who engaged in light physical activity such as walking had a significant improvement in their health. These people were less likely to develop chronic illnesses and had lower BMI measurements.

Benefits of Moderate Intensity Exercise.

The most beneficial type of exercise is moderate intensity exercise. It provides numerous health benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol, weight management, cancer prevention, and much more. Unless otherwise directed by a doctor, all adults should exercise at a moderate intensity. Moderate intensity is defined as anything between 50% and 70% of the target HR reserve and can be achieved through a variety of activities such as brisk walking, leisurely cycling, aqua aerobics, and dancing. There are numerous ways to be physically active and reap the benefits of moderate intensity, but it all starts with you taking the first step.

Benefits of Vigorous Intensity Exercise.

Adults who are physically active on a regular basis and have at least an average level of fitness should engage in vigorous-intensity exercise. Power lifting or sprinting at Olympic speed are not examples of vigorous intensity. Jogging, rowing, elliptical, fast dancing, and aerobics are examples of vigorous-intensity activities. The target HR reserve percentage should be between 70% and 85%. If you have a history of health problems or are in your forties, you should consult your doctor before engaging in strenuous activity. Vigorous intensity provides similar benefits to moderate intensity, but it also increases the risk of injury. To reap the most benefits from exercise, it is recommended that the average adult engage in both moderate and vigorous activity.

What Now?

Finally, it should be noted that while intensity levels are important, they are not as intimidating as they sound. ACSM recommends that a healthy adult engage in 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise or 20-60 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two, three to five days per week. It is also recommended that if you only exercise at a moderate intensity, you do so 5 days a week, and if you only exercise at a vigorous intensity, you do so 3 days a week. If you have any concerns about your current fitness level or your ability to perform vigorous intensity exercise, consult your doctor. I hope you can use what was mentioned above as a resource.