The intensity of a workout can make a big difference in how many calories you burn and the ability to build endurance, but many people are unsure how to gauge an ideal intensity level. There are different methods -- the most common being a heart monitor or checking one's pulse -- but there's also a very easy, widely accepted way to estimate appropriate cardiorespiratory intensity. The Talk Test!
Ideally, an exerciser should feel a little winded, but able to carry on a 'light' conversation while working out. In other words, if you can't get the words out, you're working too hard. Conversely, if you're not winded at all, increase the intensity level of your workout. The goal is to maintain an intensity level where conversation is comfortable. Intensity is considered to be appropriate for cardiorespiratory endurance improvement
at the point where it is moderately difficult to respond in a conversation. This method comes in especially handy during interval training!
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse studied 14 trained, noncompetitive runners using the Talk Test. During this study, the athletes ran at progressively faster speeds, and were asked to recite The Pledge of Allegiance. The research found that if the person could not comfortably recite the Pledge of Allegiance completely, the exercise intensity was unacceptably high. Previous studies in non-athletes have also suggested that the Talk Test is a useful indicator of the ventilatory threshold -- the point at which breathing starts to become increasingly difficult.
Another recent study, published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), supports these findings. Sixteen participants performed two tests, one on a treadmill and the other on a cycle ergometer. Heart rate and perceived exertion were also monitored and compared to the results of the Talk Test; consistent results from all three methods of measurement were found. The findings also indicated that when speech was no longer comfortable, exercise intensity was above a sustainable level.
The Talk Test is practical and consistent way of determining appropriate exercise intensity, which makes it a great way for an exerciser to make a quick, easy and accurate evaluation of his or her exercise intensity. Use the Talk Test at least once every 15 minutes during aerobic exercise, it gives new meaning to 'talking the talk!'