Exercise: The Talk Test

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Last time we talked about the Mayo Clinic's recommended four basic groups of fitness - Aerobic Fitness, Muscular Fitness, Stretching, and Core Stability. Now we'll address the balance and intensity of your workouts. Moderate exercise is best, especially if you are just starting out, but what does "moderate" mean? Go too easy and you might not meet your fitness goals; too hard too soon can increase risk of injury, soreness, and discouragement if you're unable to maintain a routine.

One easy way to determine your workout intensity is the "Talk Test." If you are walking or jogging at a moderate pace, you should be able to carry on a brief conversation of short sentences. If you're so out of breath you can't speak, or are gasping for breath, you should slow your pace a bit. But if you can sing an operetta, you're probably not working hard enough. You should feel some strain in your muscles—but not painful burning—and work up a light sweat and get your heart rate up a bit. If you have a heart rate monitor, or take your pulse while exercising, but aren't sure what your maximum heart rate is or what your heart rate range should be during exercise, Mayo recommends these methods based on your age:

Max Heart Rate: Subtract your age from 220.
Example: 220 – 40 yrs old = 180 beats per minute
Maximum Heart Rate for exercise is 180 bpm

Target Heart Rate: 70% - 85% of Max Heart rate
Example: Max Heart Rate 180 x 0.7 = 126 beats per minute
Max Heart Rate 180 x 0.85 = 153 beats per minute
Target Heart Rate for exercise is 126-153 bpm

Whether you watch your heart rate or take the Talk Test, regular moderate exercise will help you keep a healthy heart. Remember to consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting any new exercise program.

- Jeff Koelemay


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