To get the most out of your physical efforts, you should know how to monitor your workout intensity. Here are two easy ways that can help you to gauge the relative intensity of physical exertion.

Target Heart Rates

A way of monitoring the intensity of physical activity is to determine whether your heart rate is within the target zone while engaging in the activity. When doing moderate-intensity physical activity, your target heart rate (THR) should be 50%-70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR), whereas an estimate of your age-related MHR can be obtained by subtracting your age from 220. For vigorous-intensity physical activity, your THR should be 70%-85% of your MHR.

Example

If you are a 40-year old person, your estimated aged-related MHR would be 220-40=180 beats per minute (bpm).

  • For moderate-intensity physical activity, the 50% level would be: 180 x 0.50= 90 bpm and the 70% level would be 180 x 0.70=126 bpm. Thus, you would require having your heart rate reaching between 90-126 bpm when engaging in moderate-intensity physical activity.
  • For vigorous-intensity physical activity, the 70% level would be 180 x 0.70= 126 bpm and the 85% level would be 180 x 0.85=153 bpm. Thus, you would require having your heart rate reaching between 126 – 153 bpm when engaging in vigorous-intensity physical activity.

Talk Test

Conversation pace can also be used to estimate the relative intensity of physical activity.

Level of intensityIndicator
Light If you are able to sing while doing the activity
Moderate If you are able to carry on a conversation comfortably while engaging in the activity
High If you become winded or out of breath when carrying on a conversation