You need to do at least a 150 minutes weekly of moderate to vigorous physical activity. What is the best exercise? That one you will do. But, the higher the intensity, the healthier the results. Research has shown that higher intensity activities are more effective than low-intensity activities at improving our health. Especially when it comes to important stuff like reducing your risk for heart disease.
But, What is Intensity?
Intensity can be thought of how hard a person works to do a specific activity. It is important to remember that no two people are the same. So, the intensity of different forms of physical activity varies between people and depends on someone’s previous exercise experience and their level of fitness.
If you are inactive, any amount of physical activity can provide some health benefits, so it is best to start with smaller amounts of activity and gradually increase duration, frequency and intensity.
How to Measure Intensity?
M.E.T. – metabolic equivalent. So, imagine a scale, from one to ten. Running can be at 8; jogging can be at 5, and the bottom can be resting, watching TV, anything less than 1.5. Moderate intensity physical activity which measures 3 to 6 Mets requires effort and noticeably accelerates your heart rate. For example, walking – depending on your speed, the met can range from 2.3 to 3.6. Yardwork could be at 6; housework can be 3 to 3.5 and so on.
Vigorous intensity physical activity which measures more than six Mets requires a significant amount of effort and causes rapid breathing and a substantial increase in your heart rate. Think of sports or shoveling heavy snow – it is challenging to sustain vigorous activity for a long time.
Research on athletes shows that cycling (for example) hard, for 30 to 60 seconds, and then relaxing for the same amount of time and then repeating – what we call interval training has been shown to improve performance in the shorter amount of time.
The same can be true for the average person, incorporating short periods of increased intensity into your routine can improve your fitness and decrease your risk of a long list of health complications.
A Simpler Way to Determine the Intensity
Let’s make it more simple – if an activity does not cause changes in your breathing patterns or make you sweat, then you are probably getting a low-intensity workout. If you can hold a conversation but still feel out of breath, you are probably in the moderate range. Can you talk to your neighbor or sing out loud, if not you are perhaps in the vigorous range. If you can do a fair to vigorous activity at least 150 minutes per week, you are meeting the target.
In conclusion, go for a brisk walk, grab a dance partner, a garden hose or even a vacuum cleaner and get ready, get set and up and go. The intensity of how you approach the exercise determines the quality.
Approach every step every part of that exercise as if it is the one and the only one that you are doing so as if you are building a foundation for a home. Brick by brick. Every move that you make it with intensity, courage, fire, and with every bit of energy that you have.