Moderate-intensity vs. vigorous-intensity exercise
Whether an activity is low, moderate, or vigorous intensity depends a lot on your personal fitness level. A brisk jog, for example, may be low intensity for a seasoned athlete but vigorous intensity for someone who’s never exercised before.
How intensely am I exercising?
How it feels: Breathing easily, warming up but not yet sweating. Can easily talk in full sentences—or even sing.
- casual walking
- tai chi
How it feels: You’re working, breathing faster, and starting to sweat more. You’re still able to talk in full sentences, but not able to sing.
- brisk walking
- water aerobics
- riding a bike on level ground
- doubles tennis
- pushing a lawn mower
- weight training
How it feels: Really working, breathing hard, sweating hard, and too breathless to talk in full sentences.
- jogging or running
- swimming fast
- riding a bike fast or on hills
- singles tennis
- skipping rope
- martial arts
- circuit training
Vary the intensity for faster results
It’s safe to say that the ultimate goal for most people who exercise is to boost fitness while spending less time working out. But while most purported shortcuts are simply too good to be true, “interval training”—bursts of vigorous-intensity activity alternating with lower-intensity activity—can actually deliver results.
For example, once you’ve warmed up, instead of walking at a moderate-intensity pace for 30 minutes, try interval training for 20 minutes. Walk at a moderate-intensity pace for one minute followed by jogging at a vigorous-intensity pace for one minute, then back to brisk walking for a minute, and so on. Or, you could alternate brisk walking with skipping rope or doing push-ups.
Alternating intensity in this way not only delivers cardiovascular benefits but can help you to squeeze a better workout into a shorter period of time. And as long as your doctor has cleared you to safely exercise this way, it can also help you lower your blood pressure, lose weight (especially around your middle), and maintain muscle mass. Interval training can also be a great way to vary your workouts and challenge your muscles in new ways.