Exercise Intensity

How hard a person exerts themselves over a period of time is probably the number one reason that affects weight loss and fitness.  If you are not working at a level that your body is not used to then changes cease to happen and you will plateau.  The physical activity we do in a 24 hour period is responsible for 30-40% of the total calories we are allowed to intake in a day to meet our weight loss objectives.

To maximize your energy expenditure in a day and to become fit the intensity of your effort is vital to achieving success.  Below I have compiled a list with different levels of exercise intensity and the approximate amount of calories you would be burning at that level for the time period you are working at.

This list will give a value of how hard you are working relative to your own fitness level.  The first six levels are considered active living intensity.  They are how you exist in most hours of the day in your environment.  The key is to spend more time at levels 4 and 5 and less time at levels 0 and 1.  Research shows that body fat levels are lowered more from your active living intensity rather than from exercise.  We generally only workout one hour per day, but we are active living the other 23 hours.  The next five levels focus on your exercise intensity.  Exercise intensity is what will make you fit and separate you from the average person.  If you are doing an hour of exercise daily, five workouts per week can be at the 6-8 levels and two workouts at 8-10 levels.  With more intensity you can get away with less workout time, maybe 30-40min.  With longer workouts, 60min plus, you can work at lower intensity levels.

Levels of Perceived Exertion Intensity

Level 0 – Lying on the couch watching television, reading or listening to  IPod.  (Calorie Range = 50 to 80 per hour)

Level 1 – Sitting at table eating, doing a puzzle or playing board games. (Calorie Range = 80 to 110 per hour)

Level 2 – Light house work.  Taking out the garbage, dusting, putting dishes in dishwasher.  (Calorie Range = 110 to 150 per hour)

Level 3 – Walking as a stroll or light gardening.  Potting a plant, watering flowers.  (Calorie Range =150 to 300 per hour)

Level 4 – Moderate housework or gardening.  Picking up toys, vacuuming, mowing the grass, weeding.  (Calorie Range = 175 to 400 per

Level 5 –  Aggressive housework and gardening.  At this intensity you can  feel your heart working.  Examples are carrying the laundry basket upstairs, chasing the kids in the yard, gardening activities like digging and racking the grass.  (Calorie Range = 200 to 500 Per hour).

Level 6 –  Easy exercise, you feel like you can do the activity for a long time. Power walking, yoga, pilates, biking with the kids.  (Calorie  Range = 300-600 per hour).

Level 7 –  Moderate intensity exercise.  At this level your heart is beating steady and firmly.  Walk/run intervals or jogging at a steady state
That feels comfortable.  (Calorie Range = 400 – 800 per hour).

Level 8 –  Hard exercise.  You could continue to exercise but it feels so good to stop.  Most people run races or compete in sports at this level. (Calorie Range = 500 -1000 per hour).

Level 9 –  Near maximum heart rate and muscular fatigue.  In one to two minutes you will have to cease the activity because of exhaustion.
Doing intervals to this level followed by a short period of recovery for multiple sets will make you really fit.  (Calorie
Range = 600-1200 per hour).

Level 10 – Maximum heart rate and total muscular failure.  Complete exhaustion, 100% effort.  Very few people can go here because it hurts.  I call it the “pain zone”.  This is where you see the devil. Athletes go this hard but can tolerate the intensity.  It takes desire
and mental toughness to make yourself hurt this much.  Not recommended to do more than two workouts per week at this level.  (Calorie Range = unlimited depending on the person and activity of choice).

The more you experiment with working at different levels of exertion the better you will become in recognizing how hard you are working.  This is important because in my experience many people think they are working hard but drastically underestimate what they could have done if pushed.  Maximize the minutes in your day with harder work and you will have a better chance of attaining the lean, fit body you desire.