When the aerobics movement gained momentum in the mid-1970s, the emphasis was on distance and pace. Recently, the emphasis has shifted to moderate exercise, which, according to many experts, offers most of the same benefits without the risk of injury.
American guidelines call for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. But exactly what is meant by moderate exercise?
“Benefits can be gained from any kind of physical activity, not necessarily something known as “exercise” performed in a health club,” said Ashley Seiler, family nurse practitioner, Ministry Medical Group, Crandon and Laona. “Theoretically, that means that housework, gardening and similar activities can count toward your weekly 150 minute requirement.”
In terms of heart rate, experts define moderate activity as anything that gets the heart beating at 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate; vigorous, at 70 to 85 percent of capacity.
Although there are individual variations due to genetics and fitness levels, you can generally determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. That means if you are 50, your maximum heart rate is 170. To qualify as moderate, your activity has to be strenuous enough to get your heart rate to 85 beats a minute–hardly a fast pace. At 70 percent, however, your heart will be pounding away at 119 beats per minute, and you will know the difference.
“In practice, you might spend the first and last five minutes at the 50 percent level, gradually working up to 70 percent before tapering off,” said Seiler. “Whether you’re walking, running, biking or climbing stairs, that qualifies as a moderate workout.”
If you have a heart rate monitor strapped to your chest or use the hand grip monitors on your exercise machine, it’s easy to know if you are reaching the necessary intensity. Otherwise, you can stop briefly and check your pulse at the wrist or neck.
It probably makes more sense to go by the way you feel. If you break into a light sweat after about 10 minutes, and your breathing is a bit quicker than usual, you’re probably working hard enough. You should be able to carry on a conversation but will find it hard to sing.
Another measure of intensity uses METS, or metabolic equivalents. One MET is the energy required to sit quietly; moderate intensity is defined as three to six METS. As a rule of thumb, brisk walking at 3.5 to 4.0 miles per hour or biking at 10 to 12 miles per hour will use about 3 to 6 METS, depending on your level of fitness. Digging in the garden, raking leaves, mowing the lawn with a power mower or even housework–might reach a similar level of intensity, but you should expect a little bit of discomfort if you want to count these chores as moderate physical activity.
To schedule an appointment with Ashley Seiler, family nurse practitioner, at Ministry Medical Group (MMG) in Crandon, please call 715.478.3318, or MMG in Laona, please call 715.674.5233. Ministry Medical Group in Crandon offers expanded hours to accommodate patients. MMG Crandon is open Monday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturday from 8 – 11 a.m. to serve you and your family. Ministry Medical Group in Laona is located at 4876 Mill Street, and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
MMG Crandon, located at 400 West Glen Street, offers a full range of services including diagnostic services, primary care (adults and children), obstetrics/gynecology, rheumatology, surgery, lab services and specialist referral. Internal medicine and family medicine clinicians from Ministry Medical Group are located at this Patient Centered Medical Home clinic, while a number of specialists also rotate to Crandon on a weekly basis from Rhinelander.