Exercise Intensity for Heart and Brain Health: Try the “Talk Test”

Nov 8, 2017 | Maria Caselli | @mariacaselli

Trying to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle? We have all heard about the benefits of exercise: enhanced heart and brain health, improved sleep and better moods, just to name a few. But how do we know if we are exercising vigorously enough to achieve those benefits?

Try the “talk test” next time you set out for your workout and see.

Couple on Treadmill

The talk test is simple.

As you are warming up to your activity the pace of your breath, which correlates with your usage of oxygen, will begin to quicken and deepen. In the warm up phase you are moving slowly enough that you should be able to talk pretty easily and you can reply comfortably with 3 words to a brief question

After warming up, pick up the pace of your activity until you are comfortably uncomfortable: you are breathing more heavily and can manage to say 2 words or so. This level of intensity develops your ability to use oxygen efficiently benefitting overall health.

If you find yourself uncomfortable, unable to catch enough breath to even say 1 word, your exercise intensity has reached maximum. It is difficult to sustain this level of intensity for long.

Aim to spend 10-15 minutes warming up in the comfortable or 3 words zone;  10-45 minutes in the comfortably uncomfortable or 2 word zone; and cool down for 10 minutes in the comfortable, 3 word zone.

There are many popular devices which track our exercise intensity: smart phones, watches and heart rate monitors. The most reliable and portable, not to mention inexpensive, though, is our breath. So next time you head for a workout try the “talk test” and see how your exercise measures up!

If you’d like to read more about safe exercise guidelines check out the website for the National Institute on Aging.

What are the exercises with which you could try this “talk test”?

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) blog.

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