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The Mayo Clinic reveals *exactly* how to test if your exercise is vigorous enough

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsDecember 13, 2019

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Photo: Getty Images/ AleksandarNakic

As one of its physical activity recommendations, the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (DPHP)calls for adults between the ages 18 and 64 complete 75 minutes of exercise classified as “vigorous.” To which I say: “Cool. But what constitutes vigorous exercise?” The Mayo Clinic—a network of 4,700 physicians and scientists—answers that very question in a recent video.

Exercise can be organized into three categories: the light activity zone, the moderate zone, and the vigorous zone. All three contribute to a well-rounded fitness routine, but learning how to distinguish between each will help you learn when you need to push your body—and when it’s time to pull back on the “harder, better, faster, stronger” mentality. You can actually test yourself mid-workout.

Are you meeting your vigorous exercise quota? Here’s how to tell

Light exercise test

Slow, meandering walks, vacuuming, gardening, and even cooking can all be considered “light” exercise, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Want to test if you’re in this zone? The Mayo Clinic recommends breaking out into song (may I suggest Lizzo?). If you can carry a tune from start to finish, then your exercise is light, cortisol-free, and relaxing.

Moderate exercise test

As one option for your weekly dose of exercise, the Mayo Clinic says you can perform 2 hours and 30 minutes of “moderate exercise. ” The Center for Disease Control says hiking, aerobic dancing, ice skating, yoga, and walking at a brisk pace all count as moderate. To test if you’re in that zone, try saying the pledge of allegiance. If you can still say it but you’re breathing hard, you’re working out moderately.

Vigorous exercise test

If you can’t utter even a few words without taking a breath, the Mayo Clinic says you’ve found yourself in the vigorous zone. Running or jogging, biking at a speed of more than 10 miles per hour, jumping rope, and swimming laps all fall under this category. (And remember, DHDP recommendations say you’ll want 75 minutes of this a week. Or, 75 minutes total of vigorous and moderate exercise combined.)

This jump rope workout should tick the “vigorous” box:

Not sure how to design a workout? Use this template at the gym, and program your week of workouts like so.

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