Fitting Percentage Of Body Fat To Simple Body Measurements Formula Determining Exercise Intensity

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Determining Exercise Intensity

If you are new to exercise and looking to start a new workout program, you may be wondering what intensity level is best for your goals and your fitness level. Many people are not sure what intensity levels are defined by and avoid exercise labeled as vigorous intensity due to injury or lack of ability. As a personal trainer and exercise physiologist, it’s my job to help explain these terms and concepts in a more understandable way. In this article, I’ll break down light, moderate, and vigorous intensity, so that you, as a physically active person, are more educated and comfortable with what you’re doing in your daily practice. It is recommended that a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise be performed by most healthy adults, while light to moderate exercise is performed by deconditioned individuals. Intensity is individually based, meaning that your intensity level is based on your physical abilities and not normalized by the abilities of others. Ideally, you’ll want to have a professional in the field determine your intensity level based on a guided fitness test, but I’ll provide you with information that will allow you to get an estimate without such sources. To do so we will use what is known as the Target HR Reserve Method. This method starts with HR reserve, which is defined as the difference between your resting heart rate and your maximum HR. Your HR reserve is then multiplied by the appropriate intensity percentage you are aiming for, then your resting HR is added back to get your target HR reserve. Below I have demonstrated a method for moderate intensity exercise for me.

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 have to use the heart rate reserve (HRR) and multiply it by the percentage equal 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 like to exercise at a moderate intensity. Therefore, I would increase my HRR by 50% to achieve my lowest HR value and then by 70% to achieve my highest value to stay 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 is to add your resting HR to the HRR percentage to get the final range of your target HR reserve. This allows the equation to consider your cardio endurance level at rest and adjust accordingly. Below, I demonstrate how to do that and find 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 very beneficial for older adults. This allows them to remain physically active when there may be physical limitations or health concerns preventing moderate or vigorous activity. Light intensity is considered less than 50% of the target heart rate reserve and offers many health benefits, especially to deconditioned individuals. An Oregon State University study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found a significant increase in the health of older people who participated in light physical activity, such as walking. These individuals were less likely to develop chronic disease and had lower body mass index measurements.

Benefits of moderate intensity exercise

Moderate intensity exercise is the most beneficial form of exercise. It offers many health benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol, weight management, cancer prevention, and more. Moderate intensity is recommended for all adults unless restricted by a physician. A moderate intensity goal is anything between 50%-70% of HR reserve and can be achieved through many activities, such as brisk walking, leisurely cycling, aqua aerobics, and dancing. There are many ways in which you can be physically active and reap the benefits of moderate intensity exercise, but it starts when you take that first step.

Benefits of vigorous intensity exercise

Strenuous-intensity exercise is recommended for adults who are physically active and have at least an average physical fitness level. Strong intensity is not powerlifting or sprinting at Olympic speeds. Vigorous intensity activities include jogging, rowing, elliptical, brisk dancing, and aerobics. The target HR reserve percentage is anything between 70%-85%. It is recommended that if you have a history of health problems or are middle-aged that you get clearance from your doctor before engaging in strenuous activity. Vigorous intensity has the same benefits as moderate intensity but also increases the risk of injury. It is recommended that a combination of both moderate and vigorous intensity be achieved by the average adult to obtain maximum benefits from exercise.

what now

Finally, it should be known that intensity levels are important but they are not as scary as they sound. It is recommended by the ACSM that a healthy adult engage in 30 – 60 minutes of moderate exercise or 20 – 60 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both, each day for ≥3 to 5 days per week. It is also recommended that if you only participate in moderate intensity, you do it 5 ≥ days a week and if you only participate in vigorous intensity, 3 ≥ days a week. Ask your doctor if you have any concerns about your current fitness level and your ability to perform vigorous intensity exercise. I hope you can take the time mentioned above and use it as a resource on your journey to optimal wellness.

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