How to Measure Intensity

How Do You Measure Intensity?

There are 2 ways to measure intensity. It is the level of effort (Relative) and the amount of energy (Absolute). Here we’ll explain the difference between relative and absolute ways to measure intensity and what they mean to your next workout.

Relative Intensity

The level of effort required by a person to perform an activity. When using relative intensity, pay attention to how physical activity affects your heart rate and breathing.

The talk test is a simple way to measure relative intensity. In short, if you’re doing moderate-intensity activity you can talk, but can’t sing, during the activity. Similarly, during vigorous-intensity activity you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for air.

Absolute Intensity

The amount of energy used by the body per minute of activity. In other words, intensity is the amount of energy you use to do something. This table shows examples of the intensity differences of different activities:

Measure Moderate and Vigorous Intensity

Moderate Intensity

  • Brisk walking at 3 miles an hour or faster, but not race-walking.
  • Water aerobics.
  • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour.
  • Tennis (doubles).
  • Ballroom dancing.
  • General gardening.

Vigorous Intensity

  • Race walking, jogging, or running.
  • Swimming laps.
  • Tennis (singles).
  • Aerobic dancing.
  • Fast Bicycling at 10 miles per hour or faster.
  • Jumping rope.
  • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing).
  • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack.

Measure of Intensity Conclusion

Now that you know how to measure the intensity of your next workout, track that information. After a few weeks, if allowable by your Dr., ask if increasing the level is right for you. Or see if you Dr. approves a HIIT workout for you. This is where short bursts of intensity add up to a great workout.

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