Intensity refers to how hard or intense you put forth an effort in an activity. This is independently relative in that what might be considered extremely hard to one person may be considered moderate to another person.

Listen to your body! Researchers have found the level of your effort during a physical activity is likely to agree with what actual physical measurements would show. In other words, if your body is telling you that the exercise you are doing is moderate, you can probably sense you are challenging yourself but are not near your limit. The Borg Rating Scale is one way to estimate how demanding your physical activity is by listening to your body. As your body adapts to your physical activity program and you become more fit, then you may gradually and in moderation keep making your activities more challenging. The Borg Rating Scale is simple to use. Match your level of effort with the corresponding number on the scale.

Find your comfort level on the scale. Eventually you will be able to work comfortably within the fairly light to somewhat hard range (11-13).

Source: Borg, G.V. (1982). Psychological basis of perceived exertion. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 14, 377-381. American College of Sports Medicine.

What counts as moderate physical activity?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell you are working at a moderat level of intensity is that you’ll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song.” Or, if you were to rank your level of intensity on a scale of 0-10, moderate intensity activity is a 5 or 6.

Every occupation requires a mix of light, moderate, or vigorous activities. Think about how you spend your day. The minutes that you engage in activity that raises your heart rate and break a sweat would count toward your move and improve daily minutes.

*Remember, you can split up your daily goal into smaller chunks of time to fit your busy schedule. If you are working toward a 30 minute per day goal, as long as you are active at a moderate level of intensity, you can engage in three 10 minutes time slots and still reap the benefits had you done a continuous 30 minutes of activity.