Guest Author - Elizabeth Brennan
For maximum health benefits we are recommended to walk at a brisk pace, but how do you know what pace you are walking at? Some may feel their pace is moderate while others may find the same pace vigorous. Walking pace is subjective and depends on several factors. Age, weight, and current level of fitness will determine your level of exertion.
It is important to pace yourself during exercise especially if you have been inactive for a time. Therefore you should monitor your intensity to make sure you are working hard enough to achieve your goals but not so hard that you are taking health risks. To be of benefit exercise, and in this case walking, should raise your heart rate to 60% Ė 85 % of your maximum heart rate. This is your target heart rate (THR). A brisk walking pace will achieve this.
You can calculate your maximum heart rat by deducting your age from 220. For example if you are aged 40 your maximum heart rate would be
220 Ė 40 = 180 beats per minute. Your target heart rate should therefore lie somewhere between 108 and 153 beats per minute. This is calculated by getting 60% of 180 = 108 and 85% of 180 = 153. If you are taking medication to lower your blood pressure consult your doctor about your maximum heart rate. Aim for the lower rate of your THR when you start exercising and build up slowly.
There are many ways to monitor your heart rate. The most obvious way is to take your pulse by placing your first and middle fingers on the inside wrist of the opposite hand and counting the heart beats for one minute or alternatively you can buy a heart rate monitor.
The simplest method is to do the Ďtalk testí to determine if you are reaching your target. If you can talk and walk at the same time you are not working too hard. To walk at a brisk pace, moderate intensity you should be able to talk but not able to sing. If you find yourself too comfortable, speed up a little and if conversely you find you are breathless slow down.
To be a little more precise you could use the Gunnar Borg method of determining the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Exertion is the level of effort required by a person to do an activity. Itís a self assessment tool which helps you determine how hard you are working. It is based on the physical sensations you feel while exercising Ė sweating, increased heart rate, laboured breathing, muscle fatigue etc. It was developed by Dr. Gunnar Borg in 1982 and revised in 1986. The original scale went from 6 to 20 but there is a simpler version.
Level 1 Doing nothing
Level 2 Quite comfortable doing normal daily activities
Level 3 Moderate exercise, comfortable stroll
Level 4 Sweating a little, can talk and sing
Level 5 Sweating more but can still talk, slightly breathless
Level 6 Breathing heavily, can talk but not sing
Level 7 Sweating profusely, canít talk in full sentences.
Level 8 Under pressure, canít keep up the pace.
Level 9 Feel awful, concentration failing
Level 10 Maximum exertion, canít continue any further.
For health benefits you should aim to do 20 minutes of brisk walking at least three times a week, that is somewhere between level five and six on the above scale.