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Tuesday, March 7, 2006
More and more Americans are hearing the message to be physically active. The Center for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine have encouraged individuals to engage in moderate intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. This amount of activity has proven itself to be beneficial. It improves the functioning of the heart and lungs, and reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. There are also positive effects on mood and daily functioning with regular exercise. When such an exercise program includes at least a couple of days a week of strength training, there are additional benefits of stronger muscles and stronger bones.
There are different ways to gauge the intensity of cardiovascular or endurance exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or biking. One method involves calculating your target and maximal heart rates and monitoring your pulse periodically throughout the exercise session. Another method involves a subjective rating of difficulty level by the exerciser.For a step-by-step guide explaining both of these, please see the following link:
Moderate intensity aerobic exercise is generally considered that degree of difficulty which results in a heart rate of approximately 55-70% of the maximum for your age. Vigorous exercise elevates your heart rate to a greater degree, in the range of approximately 70-90% of the maximum for your age. A simpler method of estimating the intensity of exercise is to use a rating of perceived exertion. The original formulation of this method employed a scale from 6-20. Exercisers would subjectively estimate the degree of difficulty of the exercise, with 6 being the easiest and 20 being the most difficult. Moderate intensity on this scale would be approximately 12 or 13. A newer formulation of this method involves rating the degree of difficulty of the exercise from 1-10, with 10 being extremely difficult, maximal effort. Moderate on this scale would be approximately 4 or 5. More vigorous activity would generally be perceived by a person as being in the range of 6 to 8.
Recent studies have been suggesting that vigorous exercise provides additional health benefits over moderate exercise. One notable difference is that higher intensity exercise is better able to produce loss of body fat in the abdominal region. Not all body fat is created equal. The body fat in the belly has a higher correlation with risk for heart disease than does fat on the hips or thighs. This loss of body fat around the waist is associated with reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease.
High intensity exercise is not for everyone. Certain people have medical conditions, such as arthritis, that prevent vigorous exercise. Luckily, most people find that they are able to safely engage in moderate intensity exercise. It is important to consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program.For more information on physical activity and exercise guidelines: