An important aspect of exercising, whether one is at a beginner, intermediate or advanced level is monitoring the intensity, especially in case of cardio activities.
In case of strength training exercises, intensity can be monitored by noting the amount of weight used per repetition for each set or by determining the volume (reps x sets per exercise), the former being an easy and quick method to monitor intensity.
In case of cardio workout however, there are many ways to monitor intensity. Usually the cardio machines come with heart rate calculators, located at the handles or below the dashboard and are easy to use. The target heart rate is calculated as 60%-70% of Maximum Heart Rate (220-Age) for normal exercise routines. The other heart rate zones can be worked upon under expert guidance.
In case the intensity is lesser than the desired value, it can be increased by increasing the challenge (level, speed etc.) or by including arm movement.
There are also many other methods to calculate, which come in handy when one is not using the cardio machines or during an aerobic class, kickboxing class etc.
Some of them include –
Pulse Monitoring – Locate the pulse on the radial artery (around the wrist, below the thumb) where the pulse is easily palpable, and count the number of pulses in 10 seconds and multiply it by 6 to get the heart rate. It is advisable to follow this sequence since measuring the pulse rate for one whole minute increases the chances of errors as well as breaks the exercise tempo causing the heart rate to come down.
The other option is to measure on the carotid artery, around the neck adjacent to the voice box. However, this artery is highly sensitive to pressure and any excess pressure can affect the blood supply to the brain and cause light headedness, apart from also breaking the tempo of exercise.
Aerobic Intensity Monitoring!
As per last week’s discussion, it is advisable to monitor intensity while working out, especially the cardio aspect. There are many non-invasive, non-intrusive and simple ways to monitor the intensity like measuring heart rate or the rate of perceived exertion.
The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is a popular method worldwide especially in group settings, apart from radial artery pulse monitoring, as discussed last week. Exertion is defined as the amount of stress or effort exerted. Perceived exertion is the way the exertion is perceived which depends on many factors like health & fitness status, conditioning level, mindset to name a few. The rate of perceived exertion scale, also known as the Borg Scale is used to present a quantitative feeling of fatigue. There are 2 ways in which is used – 20 point scale, 10 point scale.
The 10 point scale has a range which starts with the exertion level as
0 - very very light (almost resting),
1 - very light (as in slow walking),
2, 3 - fairly light / moderate
4 - somewhat hard (steady pace),
5, 6 - hard,
7, 8, 9 - very hard,
10 - very very hard
Usually the instructor in a group setting asks for your RPE out aloud, inorder to modify the workout intensity. An RPE of 4 to 6 is a good rate to maintain. With the 20 pt scale, the range starts from 6 until 20, and the reading multiplied by 10 gives the approximate heart rate at the time. The 10 pt scale however is more popularly used.
The other method of monitoring intensity is the Talk test, which requires for the person to be able to talk without hyperventilation, at any point in the workout, to determine intensity.
Both the methods are simple, practical, easy to use and help monitor the intensity of exercise.