- Healthy living
You may be aware of the importance of regular physical activity, but do you know what type of exercise is suitable for you, how often you need to exercise, and how hard you should be working out? Exercising at the correct intensity can help you get the most benefit from your workout. This article will help you understand better about your working-out plans.
In fact, exercise is important for physical fitness and to promote overall wellness of people of all ages. Apart from helping you in managing your weight, staying physically active also helps to control or reduce your risks of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.1
What is exercise intensity?
Exercise intensity is a measure of how hard the activity feels to you when you are doing an aerobic activity, such as walking or biking. You can know how intense your exercise is by measuring the items shown in Figure 12:
Your perceived exertion is well-correlated with your heart rate.
If you think you are working hard, your heart rate is likely elevated!
Figure 1. How intense is your exercise?
You can also measure your exercise intensity using the talk test – see Figure 2.3
During the activity, you can
You cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath
Figure 2. The talk test
So, what are the examples of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activities?3
Physical activities for different groups of individuals
1) If you want to improve overall wellness1:
Physical activity pyramid
• 30 minutes of moderate activity per day is important for limiting the risks of chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease and diabetes.
• 45–60 minutes of moderate activity per day is required to prevent the transition to overweight or obesity.
• 60–90 minutes of moderate activity per day could help to prevent weight gain and regain.
• Initiate physical activity slowly, with gradual increased intensity.
• Break a single, long-period activity into several short-period workouts.
• Perform 45–60 minutes of moderate activity per day to prevent the transition from overweight to obesity.
• Perform 60–90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day or lesser amounts of vigorous activity to prevent weight gain or regain (for formerly obese individuals).
• Talk to your doctor if you are unsure which type of exercise is suitable for you to avoid unnecessary injuries.
3) High blood pressure?4
• Perform 30–45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week (eg, brisk walking).
• However, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise programme.
4) High cholesterol?5
• Perform 30–45 minutes per day of aerobic activity (brisk walking, jogging, cycling and swimming) for at least 5 times a week.
• Perform 30 minutes per day (at least 5 times a week) of moderate-intensity exercise +/- 20 minutes per day (at least 5 times a week) of vigorous aerobic exercise + ≥2 sessions per week of resistance exercise (eg, lifting weights)6
• However, you should consult your doctor to determine your level of fitness before you begin any exercise programme. You need to know what types of exercise are good for you, as some complications of diabetes make certain types of physical activity bad choices.7
6) Stressed out?
Stress may increase your risks of getting high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.8 Exercise is an effective way to fight and overcome stress. You can walk, climb stairs, jog, cycle, do yoga, practise tai chi, do gardening, lift weights or swim, depending on your preference.9
Don’t be sedentary!
Physical inactivity not only refers to absence from physical activity, but also participation in physical passive behaviours such as1:
- Television watching
- Working at the computer
- Talking over the phone
- Driving a car
Staying sedentary is bad for you! You should avoid being physicallly inactive for more than 2 hours in a day.1 If it is unavoidable (eg, due to work), you should
at least try to perform simple activities such as stretching or sit-ups during intervals of your sedentary activities.
Always busy and have no time for exercise?
Here are some simple tips to help you stay active despite your busy schedule10:
- Increase walking—You can walk to a nearby store instead of driving, park farther away at the shopping mall and walk the extra distance, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walking for at least 30 minutes per day can give you a better heart health!
- Do housework
- Work in the garden
- Stand up while talking on the telephone
- Walk the dog
- Stretch to reach items in high places and squat or bend to look at items at floor level
Don’t wait, start now!
Maybe you have never exercised and feel that starting the journey is difficult. Here are some tips to help you get started9,11:
You can monitor your progress by keeping a record of your workouts. Fitness tracking devices, fitness apps, or even some new smartphones and smart watches can help you with this, and they are all very convenient to use. So, why wait? Start exercising now!
- Ministry of Health Malaysia. Malaysian dietary guidelines key message 3–be physically active everyday; 2010.
- Mayo Clinic. Exercise intensity: How to measure it. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-intensity/art-20046887. Accessed 19 September, 2019.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measuring physical activity intensity. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/. Accessed 19 September, 2019.
- Malaysian Society of Hypertension. What is high blood pressure and a healthy lifestyle? Available at http://msh.my/. Accessed 8 October, 2019.
- Ministry of Health Malaysia. 4th Edition of clinical practice guidelines: Management of dyslipidemia; 2011.
- Ministry of Health Malaysia. Clinical practice guidelines: Management of type 2 diabetes mellitus (5th Edition); 2015.
- Diabetes Malaysia. Starting to exercise. Available at http://www.dietitians.org.my/health-info. Accessed 8 October, 2019.
- Bergmann N, et al. Endocr Connect 2014;3:R55–R80.
- Mayo Clinic. Stress management. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469?pg=2. Accessed 19 September, 2019.
- American Heart Association. Get moving: Easy tips to get active! Available at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/getting-active/get-real-about-getting-active#.vwrvovl9601. Accessed 8 October, 2019.
- WebMD. How to start an exercise program. Available at http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/how-start-exercise-program?page=1. Accessed 19 September, 2019.