Getting Exercise Intensity Right At Any Age To Achieve Your Goal

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By: Stuart Carter, Dip. PT, Precision Nutrition 1,

C.O.O., The Fit Father Project

exercise intensity
Thinking about exercise intensity shows that you’re moving in the right direction. It’s important to get the right level of intensity for the result you’re trying to achieve.

You probably already have a good idea of how hard you’re working out by your level of exhaustion. Now you need to ensure your exercise intensity is right for what you’re trying to achieve. You don’t need to be exhausted after every session!

In simple terms, exercise intensity is the amount of effort it takes to complete a specific workout. The trick is to get the level right, and that’s what we’re here to help you with.

Measuring Exercise Intensity Level

Before you can adjust your exercise intensity you need to know how to measure the intensity of your exercise. Then, you’ll be able to choose the exercise intensity that will help you achieve your goals.

But, don’t forget to share your results with us and the other dads at the Fit Father Project, you can inspire others with your success! If you’re not a member yet, join the FF30X program today, the support you’ll receive will be invaluable.

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Light Intensity

This level is unlikely to break a sweat, you’re breathing will be pretty normal, and you’ll be able to talk to friends without an issue.

Any exercise can fall into this category, it depends how hard you’re trying.

Moderate Intensity

Medium level exercise intensity means talking will be difficult, but not impossible. You’ll be breaking a sweat, and your breathing will be fast, but still smooth.

Vigorous or high intensity

This s when you’re really pushing your body. Your breathing is likely to be labored, you’ll be sweating and should find it almost impossible to talk.

Don’t forget that these are personal, your light exercise intensity maybe someone else’s high exercise intensity or vice versa.

Exercise Intensity Via Your Heart Rate

Of course, assessing your breathing will give you a general guide to your exercise intensity. However, checking your heart rate is another way of measuring exercise intensity.

It has the added benefit of allowing you to assess when your heart is working less, even though you’re doing the same exercise as usual.

This shows your fitness level and capabilities are improving.

An average resting heart rate is between 60-80 beats per minute. But, to work out your exercise intensity level you need to know your maximum heart rate, which can be loosely established using the sum of 220 minus your age.

For example, if you’re 45, your maximum heart rate would be 220-45, which is 175.

You can then work out your exercise intensity by measuring your heart rate and converting it into a percentage of your maximum heart rate.

  • Low exercise intensity is when your heart is beating slightly higher than its normal range, so around 60 and 85 beats per minute.
  • Medium exercise intensity is 50-70% of your maximum. For a 45 year old that’s between 87 and 130.
  • High exercise intensity is 70-85% of your maximum. That means, if you're 45, your heart rate should be between 130 and 150.

The good news is that you don’t need to monitor your heart rate while you’re exercising. There are plenty of smartwatches or even heart rate monitors that will do this for you.

After you’ve finished you’ll be able to check your data on the dedicated app and see how intense your exercise has been. This will help you to adjust your effort and routine next time.

Because that’s the real trick, knowing how hard you should be working to achieve your personal goals.

You should note that your heart rate can be higher if it’s hot, you’ve had caffeine, you feel stressed, or even as a result of some medications.

Your Aims

Everyone has different aims when it comes to exercise. You may want to tone or retain muscle. You’re probably already aware that you can lose as much as 5% of your muscle every decade, the right exercises and exercise intensity will help to ensure you retain this muscle.

That’s good for your overall health, fitness, and even your balance as you age.

Of course, you may simply want to lose weight. Understanding your exercise intensity level and how to measure it is only the start of the battle.

You also need to know what sort of exercises you should be doing and at what level.

Understanding this will help to ensure the time you spend exercising is genuinely useful.

If you need help with choosing exercises, check out this this free 24-minute workout!

It’s also good to understand the different forms of exercise.

  • Aerobic

This type of exercise means your body is producing enough oxygen to perform properly. Aerobic exercise is usually performed at a low or medium intensity.

  • Anaerobic

In contrast, anaerobic means that your body isn’t producing enough oxygen for your muscles. This is high exercise intensity and usually short duration.

How Will These Help Your Fitness?

The length of your workout will increase as your body becomes accustomed to working out at high intensity.

This is because a lack of oxygen for your muscles increases lactic acid build-up. This encourages muscle fatigue which ends your workout.

But, the more you exercise the better your body will get at dealing with lactic acid build-up.

The easiest way to understand the difference is to relate it to the type of exercise. Longer duration activities, such as swimming, running, and cycling, are all aerobic.

This is because your body will gradually increase the output of oxygen as you exercise, ensuring you have enough to sustain the activity.

In contrast, quick bursts of energy, such as when you lift weights or sprint, are too quick for your body to adapt, so you don’t have enough oxygen and your muscles will tire quickly.

Understanding The Right Exercise Intensity Depending On Your Aim

Burning Fat

If you’re looking to burn fat and are performing aerobic exercise then you’re going to want to go for longer.

It takes approximately 15 minutes for your body to use up sugar reserves.

That means you need to exercise at medium intensity for at least 15 minutes, after that, if you keep exercising, you’ll start to burn fat.

The longer you exercise, the more calories you’ll burn and the greater your potential to burn fat and lose weight.

You can also use high-intensity weightlifting to burn fat. The aim in this instance is to work to exhaustion in just 15-30 minutes.

You’ll need to choose weights that are moderately heavy as you’ll be aiming to complete 12-15 reps of each exercise.

To ensure its high-intensity try doing the 12-15 reps in just 30 seconds.

Choose a variety of exercises, such as squats, pushups, lunges, chest presses, and kettlebell swings. Move from one exercise directly to the next without stopping.

When you’ve completed all the exercises pause for 30 seconds and repeat.

The aim is to do between 7 and 10 sets of the exercises within your 15-30 minute period. At the end of it, you should be struggling to complete each exercise.

This is working to exhaustion and the most effective way of boosting muscle strength and size. As you know, this will increase your fat-burning capabilities throughout the day.

Did you know that a pound of muscle burns between 7 and 13 calories in a 24 hour period, while fat burns just 2-5 calories in the same period?

Using medium intensity aerobic exercise with high-intensity anaerobic every week will be very effective at helping you to burn the fat.

You’ll also find the different lengths of these exercises easier to fit into your schedule.

Warning Signs

If you experience any of the following symptoms you should stop exercising. You may have simply overdone it, but it’s worth consulting a doctor to make sure.

  • Struggling to draw any breath
  • Chest pain
  • Pressure in your chest
  • Wheezing or coughing fit
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Severe cramps or muscle pain
  • Fatigue after exercise that continues for an extended period, (it’s normal to feel fatigued for up to an hour).
  • Feeling sick
  • Sweating excessively

Staying hydrated will help to avoid these signs, but if they occur more than once you shouldn’t exercise again until you’ve seen a doctor.

Improving Endurance

Endurance allows you to exercise for longer periods of time, and to do many other activities for longer.

Although you’ll still need to work your muscles to exhaustion you’ll need to use lighter weights, if you don’t you won’t be able to keep doing the exercises.

Increased reps are the key to endurance. However, if you want endurance and strength you’ll need a balance between lifting heavy and lifting for long.

If strength endurance is what you’re after then try lifting heavy for 3-5 reps, but repeat this set 6-8 times.

Keep the breaks short and you’ll be doing high-intensity exercises that will boost strength and endurance.

Building Muscle

If your aim is simply to build more muscle you’ll need to complete 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps. But, you should be struggling to complete each set.

Training at this level will push your muscles and increase the number of tears in your microfibers. This will, in turn, encourage growth.

It should be noted that an increase in muscle will increase your maintenance calorie needs. If these don’t match you may lose weight instead of building muscle.

Choosing The Right Exercise

Weights & cardio go hand in hand if you’re trying to lose weight, burn fat, or build muscle. The secret is to know what you’re trying to achieve.

Weight loss can be achieved with medium intensity aerobic exercise and high-intensity anaerobic exercise.

Endurance and muscle building requires high-intensity anaerobic exercises, but cardio should always be a part of a balanced training program.

This will help to ensure the muscle gains and fat loss are useable in the real world. That will inspire you, lift your confidence, and help you to do more.

Don’t forget that, while exhaustion is necessary when you’re undertaking high-intensity exercise, you need to keep good form and never overdo it.

It’s better to start with a weight that is too light and increase it than it is to start with one that is too heavy and injure yourself.

Get the Support You Need Today

It can seem like a lot to take in, that’s why you should join the FF30X program today.

You’ll get the best advice and the support of other dads who are working towards the same goals as you.

It’s a lot easier to stay motivated when you have the support and feel accountable. Check out the FF30X today and start your journey towards the right exercise intensity and the new you.

Change is possible, embrace it today!

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Stuart Carter Dip. PT, Precision Nutrition 1

C.O.O., The Fit Father Project

Stuart gained his Diploma in Personal Training & Sports Medicine through Premier Global, back in 2001. In 2018, he completed his Level 1 Precision Nutrition qualification.

Throughout his career in Fitness, Stuart has trained hundreds of clients, worked in almost every position in the industry, and ran his own successful training studio.

After a hiatus away from the Fitness industry, working in Corporate Management and Finance, Stuart returned to what he loves… Fitness! This return led to a chance meeting with Dr. Balduzzi, and a place in the Fit Father Project team.

Brotherhood Nickname: The Fit Brit
Bragging Rights: 18 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide', Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on exercise intensity.

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