Getting started? How to know how hard your work out is.
There is a very simple way to pay attention to how physical activity affects your heart rate and breathing. Try talking! Whether you can talk and breathe at the same time is how you can measure how hard you are working out.

The talk test is a simple way to measure relative intensity. If you can speak comfortably, you are in the low intensity zone. As you head into the moderate intensity zone, Which is the minimum you want to work during a cardio workout, you should be able to talk but you won’t be able to sing. If you can only say a few words before stopping to take a breath, then you are in the vigorous zone. Which zone you are in depends on the amount of energy being used by the body whilst doing the activity. 
Which activities put you in the low intensity zone?
•    Walking slowly, for example to the mail box, to and from work or in a shopping mall
•    Carrying grocery bags
•    Stretching
Which activities put you in the moderate intensity zone?
•    Walking briskly ( but not race-walking)
•    Water aerobics
•    Bicycling slower than 16km per hour
•    Tennis (doubles)
•    Ballroom dancing
•    General gardening
•    Downhill skiing
Which activities put you in the vigorous intensity zone?
•    Race walking, jogging, or running
•    Swimming laps
•    Tennis (singles)
•    Aerobic dancing
•    Cross-country skiing
•    Bicycling 16km per hour or faster
•    Jumping rope
•    Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)
•    Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack

Eventually you want to get to a level where you can someday do the following: The ultimate goal- time in the moderate zone 2-3 times per week and the vigorous zone 1-2 times per week with adequate rest in between. If you don’t make it, don’t be discouraged – build up to it. But the benefits are a stronger heart in just trying to get there. Any time spent in the moderate cardio zone is beneficial for your heart. In the end, breathing heavy and sweating for even 10 minutes (where you are still smiling) translates into a happy and healthier heart. Now just get out and start. Happy hearts and smiles!

Article by Haley O'Sullivan

3-American Council on Exercise. ACE Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition. San Diego: American Council on Exercise, 2014.
4-Foster, Carl Ph.D.; Porcari, John P. Ph.D.; Anderson, Jennifer MS.  "The Talk Test as a Marker of Exercise Training Intensity."  Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation & Prevention.January/February 2008 - Volume 28 - Issue 1 - p 24–30.  doi: 10.1097/01.HCR.0000311504.41775.78.

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