Many of us exaggerate how much we exercise; here's how to determine your actual levels.

July 5, 2022

Even if you work out every day, whether at home, in the gym, or by walking your dog, you might not be receiving as much exercise as you believe. Even with these clear recommendations, research reveals that many of us overestimate the amount of exercise we undertake. The World HealthOrganization (WHO) recommends that individuals obtain at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to strenuous aerobic activity each week. In actuality, about 36% of people overestimate their physical activity levels, and a higher percentage (61%) of persons who are not engaging in an adequate amount of physical exercise do the same. According to one study, people tend to overestimate their levels of exercise by anywhere between 36% and 173%.

People sometimes exaggerate their levels of physical activity because they are unsure of what is intended by moderate and vigorous intensity exercise. This could indicate that people aren't exercising enough, but it could also indicate that those who exercise frequently aren't benefiting as much as they might believe. Fortunately, monitoring our heart rate while exercising allows us to quickly determine the intensity of our workouts. Moderate intensity exercise is defined as any physical activity requiring a person to operate at between 40 and 59 percent of their maximal heart rate (the difference between resting heart rate and maximum heart rate). Exercise that pushes your heart rate reserve above 60% is referred to as strenuous exercise. While that may seem straightforward, each person's heart rate might vary at the same exercise intensity depending on their age, gender, and level of fitness.

You must first know your resting heart rate and your projected maximal heart rate in order to determine the goal heart rate you must reach for the various exercise intensities. By counting the number of times your heart beats per minute when at rest, you may determine your resting heart rate. A healthy resting heart rate for an average adult might range from 60 to 100 beats per minute. You can determine your predicted maximal heart rate by deducting your age from 220. A 45-year-old, for instance, will have a maximal heart rate of about 175 beats per minute.

Once you know your maximum and resting heart rates, multiply the percentage of desired heart rate reserve (for example, 45 percent - 0.45 - if you want to exercise at a moderate intensity) and determine the range. You may calculate the number of beats per minute you should aim for while working out at the appropriate intensity by adding this amount to your resting heart rate. For instance, if my resting heart rate is 45 and my maximum heart rate is 187, I should try to work out at that intensity. My heart rate would have to hit between 102 and 123 beats per minute to exercise at a moderate effort (40-59 percent of my heart rate reserve). Exercise of a vigorous intensity is anything that goes beyond this.

The rate of perceived effort scale is a simpler (though subjective) alternative if that sounds too difficult. People are asked to rate the difficulty of the exercise they are performing on a scale from 6 to 20. Exercise of a moderate intensity is deemed to be between 12 and 13 (moderately difficult), while strong intensity is deemed to be at 14 and beyond. But be careful because this scale is arbitrary and might not be as precise. Jogging at 6 miles per hour might be considered high effort by someone who has never exercised before, yet it would be moderate to low intensity by a regular marathon runner.

The number of steps you take in a certain amount of time can also be counted. For moderate effort, a step pace of 100 per minute is advised. Now that we are aware of what moderate and strenuous intensity exercise entails, let's put it into perspective to determine how much exercise we may truly be getting. Vigorous intensity requires more than 100 steps per minute. Say you take a 30-minute stroll five days a week. This would total 150 minutes of activity per week, but are these workout sessions challenging enough? Be aware of your walking pace, whether or not you stop, and how taxing it feels.

For this to be classified 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, a walking pace of at least three miles per hour or higher would be required, with no stops during the workout. This pace ought to be manageable for up to an hour, but not longer. For individuals who walk frequently, pay attention to how you feel when you walk. As you become more fit, you'll need to walk more quickly in order to raise your heart rate to the ideal level of intensity.

It's important to keep in mind that, like your arms and legs, your heart is a muscle. Get the heart pounding to keep it healthy and strong, which is why engaging in moderate to strenuous exercise is crucial. While the WHO's recommendations exist to help people stay fit and healthy, it is up to each individual to decide what activities are best for them. Increasing the use of your heart muscle will also lead to better cardiovascular fitness, which can help reduce risk of premature death or cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. And while you continue to exercise, be sure to keep track of your progress by paying attention to how it makes you feel. To obtain the required intensity and the desired heart rate, you might need to increase the intensity if it starts to seem easier.

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