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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

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Exercise Intensity Creates Results


By: Kelly Bonner

It’s January, and if you are like numerous other American’s, you have probably thought about being active this New Year.  Maybe for whatever reason, you have more questions than answers about your exercise plan. Well, NCHPAD is here to help! As a fitness specialist for over 15 years, one of the most common questions I hear is, “I’ve been working out, but why haven’t I lost any weight?”  There could be a number of reasons for this, but the most prominent answer is exercise intensity.

In our world of exercise science, we equate the word calories with energy and use them interchangeably.  In order to lose weight, it all comes down to burning more energy than you are consuming.  It doesn’t matter what diet you follow – low carb, low fat, only ice cream, or whatever the next big craze is – as long as you consume fewer calories than you are expending, then you will lose weight.  So how do you burn more energy?  We know that the higher the intensity of the exercise, the more energy expended.  If you are spending an hour a day on the treadmill or arm bike but aren’t seeing any changes, then you might want to ramp up your intensity levels.  You can do this a couple different ways.  First, you can increase your speed.  The faster you go, the higher your heart rate thus giving you the desired effects.  Second, you can change your resistance.  On a treadmill you can do this by increasing your incline.  On an arm or leg bike, you can do this by increasing your resistance.  Try to keep this increased pace or resistance for longer and longer periods of time until eventually reaching a minimum of 30 minutes a day. 

Your heart rate is a great measure of intensity because it is very subjective. What may be difficult or a high intensity exercise for me may not be for someone else so it is very important to measure your own intensity levels.  In the infographic attached, a list of three different ways to measure intensity is provided.  Find the one that works best for you.

One final word about intensity; as I mentioned previously, too little and you won’t see much benefit but performing exercise at too high of an intensity for too long can also produce poor results like aching muscles and no desire to do it again.  Aim for somewhere right in the middle.

To find out more information about exercise intensity or other New Year resolution goals like joining a gym or trying to find an accessible fitness center, check out NCHPAD’s Get the Facts.


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