By Carrie T. Brazeal
If you decided to be more active this year, good for you! Being physically active is an important aspect of getting and stay healthy.
You know the benefits of exercise: a healthier heart; increased endurance; healthy muscles, bones and joints; improved burning of calories; more energy; reduces stress; and improved ability to fall asleep and sleep well. These should motivate us to incorporate physical activity into our daily lives.
It doesn’t matter what type of physical activity you decide to do.
Just make sure that you are active at a moderate intensity to gain health benefits from aerobic activity. But what does it mean to be moderately intense? It means you need to get your heart rate up to a certain level called your target heart rate. There is a formula for determining your target heart rate but you have to stop your activity to take your heart rate. There are some other easier ways to help you decide if you are working at moderate intensity level.
Take the talk test. If you can easily talk while performing the activity, you are working at a light to moderate level. You may want to increase the rate of exercise slightly to make it more moderately intense. If you become out of breath quickly and find it very difficult to talk while performing the activity, you are probably working more vigorously. Slow it down slightly to be at moderate level of intensity. Remember, exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial. The idea of “no pain, no gain” is not true. It may not be easy at first, but exercise should not be painful.
Take the sweat test. Regular, repetitive physical activity for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity level will probably induce sweating. Everyone is different. Some people sweat more and others less, but if you begin to work up a sweat, you are probably working at least at a moderate level intensity.
Consider a brisk walk. Walk at the level you would consider to be a “brisk walk.” Moderate activity is anything that makes you breathe as hard as you do during a brisk walk. A brisk walk at 4 miles per hour is considered a moderate intensity activity. For an extensive list of moderate-level activities, see http://www.cancer.org.
If you are just beginning to exercise, it is important to start slowly and pace yourself. People are all different shapes and sizes. They are also at many different fitness levels. It is important to work at a pace/intensity level where you are comfortable.
A recent study found that activity was considered more laborious and less pleasant among overweight adults when its intensity was prescribed at a level just 10 percent higher than what the individuals self-selected. Don’t impose an intensity level on your activity that makes the activity unenjoyable.
Select a pace that works for you; otherwise, you may find your enjoyment, motivation and adherence to exercise diminishing over time.
Good luck with your exercise program!
Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer
Sciences with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 972.548.4233 or metro 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.