Getting the Right Intensity

Sometimes it’s hard to know if we’re active enough or if we’re overdoing it. Generally, while exercising:

  • You should be able to hold a conversation.
  • Your body temperature increases and you may start to sweat or get warm.
  • Your breathing rate increases.
  • You can sustain the exercise intensity for an extended period of time.

How Do I Know If I’m Doing It Right?

One way to assess your exercise program is to put it to the FITT test. FITT stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type. It’s a handy measure for outlining the basic structure of any exercise program. It helps provide parameters for tracking your workout and measuring your progress. When you lay down a fitness blueprint like this, you’re more likely to follow your routine.

Here’s What FITT Tells You:

  • Frequency: How often you exercise (number of days each week)
  • Intensity: How hard you exercise
  • Time: How long you exercise (minutes per exercise session)
  • Type: What exercise you do (walking, stretching, weight training)

The two most common ways to assess whether you are exercising at the right intensity are the ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) scale and the talk test.

The Rating of Perceived Exertion or RPE uses a scale from 6 to 20, along with descriptive words, to help convey how you feel during various intensities of exercise. You can use this scale to rate your effort during any type of activity by picking the number that best describes how the exercise feels to you.

The Talk Test assesses exercise intensity by checking whether you’re able to talk throughout the activity. If you can’t, you’re likely working too hard. However, if you’re capable of singing, you’re probably not working hard enough. When you’re exercising at the right intensity, you should be able to hold an easy conversation.