What does it mean to workout? Everyone has their own definitions and ideas of working out, but typically, when you say “workout,” our brains immediately go toward the hard workers, heavy sweaters, and the type of exercises that make us question why we even stepped into the gym in the first place. Although some workouts are like this, most individuals don’t want to feel this way when they workout. Unfortunately, society has put these standards into our brains that working out must always “feel” like a workout. This idea turns a lot of people away from exercise, unfortunately. The good thing is that this is not the only way to exercise. Low-intensity exercise is an often overlooked, and great option for individuals who want to be active and fit, but not feel like they gave everything they have when they workout.
Perhaps this is the first time you have considered that there are different types of intensities that one can workout at. When I look at exercise, I usually separate them into three separate intensities: low, medium, and high. Although we have three distinct categories listed, there is likely some crossover between exercise intensities, some being low to moderate intensity, and some being moderate-high intensity. Regardless, these categories are a good place to start. When it comes to low intensity exercise, we can imagine someone participating in a light walk. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the hardest exercise ever), we would be working at a level around 3-5. A different way of looking at exercise intensity is through our ability to talk, as well. For low-intensity exercise, you should be able to hold a steady conversation, with little to no deviation due to labored breathing. Next, we have moderate intensity exercise. Working our way up the scale, moderate intensity exercise would usually be measured at around 6-8 on our scale of 1-10. Through our talk test, moderate intensity exercise would usually allow the participant to hold a conversation, with a few short breaks in between sentences to allow for a breath. High intensity exercise puts us all the way to the top of our 1-10 scale, reaching for a level of 9+. During a high intensity exercise you will not be able to hold a conversation, and will have very labored breathing. As we describe high intensity exercise, it may seem that this would be the best option. After all, working harder is always better, right? Although I would never steer anyone from working out at a high intensity if they are conditioned, I would also never advise to only do high intensity workouts. Ideally, you would have a mix of low and high intensity exercise in your routine. Since life is filled with high intensity events (moving across a busy street, picking up a heavy object around the house, etc.) it is a good idea to work at this level occasionally. Although high intensity exercise has it’s place, low intensity exercise offers great physical and mental benefits as well.
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Low-medium intensity exercise is great for a variety of reasons. These types of exercises are typically easier to participate in, and thus enjoyed and liked by most people. This is huge when it comes to being consistent with physical activity, as the benefits we get are from exercising long-term. In addition to this, since the intensity is low, the chances of you becoming sore from the workout is slim. This leaves you recovered, motivated, and ready to participate in more physical activity the next day, or even later in the present day. Low intensity exercise embraces finding a way to move that is enjoyable for you. We aren’t focusing on “feeling like you are working out,” but rather doing physical activity that you enjoy and can stick to. If you haven’t already incorporated low intensity exercise into your life, the time to start is today!
Logan Anderson, BA, CPT, CIFT, is owner of All Strong Fitness LLC.
“I want to help people not just survive, but thrive.”
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