Working out doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. Moderate exercise specifically isn’t as hardcore as many have imagined, leaving them intimidated out of trying in some cases. A study from the University of Manitoba specifically looked at this and its effect on your likelihood to exercise. 80% of inactive adults tested couldn’t tell what was moderate exercise when asked.
Researchers recently brought together 51 regularly active adults from the university’s fitness facility. Each subject ran or walked on a treadmill at a level that they felt was a moderate intensity. The participants were able to adjust the treadmill’s incline and speed to fit their own needs, and they had to go steady for 5 minutes.
80% of the subjects tested were exercising at a vigorous level when asked to set their own intensity. Study author Danielle Bouchard PhD says,
This is great news because people are doing more than what’s needed. And it’s also great because we know that vigorous intensity exercise has more health related benefits than working out at a moderate intensity.
When people overestimate what is moderate exercise, they end up avoiding what they think is too hard.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week for adults. You can combine the two of course. Vigorous activity has additional benefits. So it might be something to consider, strengthening your heart more efficiently.
Other research has shown just the opposite, that people actually overestimate how hard they work. A study by PLOS One asked people to walk or jog at light, moderate, and vigorous exercise levels. Subjects didn’t work hard enough in this study to achieve moderate or vigorous exercise. However, the differences seem to show up from person to person.
Exercise physiologist Tom Holland, author of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat says,
I think people are all over the map is the short of it. People are just confused about what’s moderate and what’s hard. Weekend warrior types tend to train in that gray area, so it’s not really easy, it’s not really hard, and they could get much more out of it.
It depends on how fit you are of course as to what it takes to get your heart rate up, but many find that a brisk walk can get their heart rate up to a moderate rate.
If you want to find the right workout intensity, the easiest way to tell is by measuring your heart rate. You can easily buy a cheap heart rate monitor, and if you stay within 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate, you are in moderate activity. If you go up to 70 to 80%, you will get the benefits of vigorous workouts.
If you want to find your maximum heart rate, go to a steep hill and warm up for 10 minutes. Then run up hill for 30 seconds and get your heart rate. Walk slowly down the hill. Then do that 3 times and record the highest number you get as your maximum heart rate. Unfortunately, the old one size fits all calculations generally don’t fit most.