Most People Overestimate Their Exercise Intensity

So, you’re exercising to extend your life, improve your response to stress, and help your heart—but how hard are you doing it?

Chances are, you’re overestimating the intensity of your exercise. That’s according to a new study out of Toronto’s York University and published in PLOS One. How bad is it? Well, people don’t overestimate their light exercise, but when it comes to moderate and vigorous exercise, we’re pretty terrible.

Researchers took 129 sedentary adults, ages eighteen to sixty-four, and had told them to walk or jog on a treadmill at light intensity, moderate intensity, and vigorous intensity. They (and health agencies around the world) defined light intensity as 50 – 63% of one’s maximum heart rate, moderate as 64 – 76% of one’s maximum heart rate, and vigorous as 77 – 93% of one’s maximum heart rate. We guess everything past 93% qualifies as “nuts”. Anyway.

Whilst people correctly identified light intensity, on average, the participants underestimated both moderate intensity (as 58%) and vigorous intensity (as 69%). More worrisome, when asked to move at a pace that provides health benefits, 52% of participants went with light intensity, 19% went with moderate intensity, and only 5% went with vigorous intensity. For the record, experts recommend at least 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.

Fortunately, we have an easy solution for you: buy a wellograph, or one of the many other activity trackers out there. Estimates are for flakes—we chose cold, hard fact every single time.

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