To maximize workout benefits, “our recommendations for most people are 30 to 90 minutes of total exercise 6 to 7 days per week, and that exercise can include aerobic conditioning, resistance training (2 to 3 times weekly), and/or flexibility,” counsels Pritikin Director of Exercise Scott Danberg, MS.
Of course, you can break it up. A nice long walk in the morning, for example. A little stretching and a short walk at lunchtime. And maybe resistance training after work.
“Also,” says Scott, “it’s best if your aerobic workouts are in your Training Heart Rate range, or THR.”
Your THR, determined by the results of your Pritikin treadmill stress test and other factors, including blood pressure response, is the range in which your heart should be beating during aerobic exercise for optimal conditioning.
“Following your THR will allow you to burn more calories, exercise at a safe and comfortable level, and maximize cardiorespiratory benefits while minimizing the risk of fatigue and injury,” explains Scott Danberg.
To determine if you’re exercising at THR intensity, you can use any of the following:
1. Heart rate monitor (the most accurate way to monitor heart rate)
“Do keep in mind,” says exercise physiologist Scott Danberg, “that heart rate monitors on machines have a degree of error. They’re not as accurate as your own personal heart rate monitor.”
2. 6-second pulse check
(Count the number of heartbeats within a 6-second time frame, and multiply this number by 10 to determine your total beats per minute. This total should be within your Target Heart Rate range.)
3. “Rating of Perceived Exertion,” or RPE. (See scale below)
Exercise exertion perceived as “Somewhat Hard” (12 to 14 on RPE) generally means you’re in the lower end of your Target Heart Rate range. An RPE of 15 to 16 usually means you’re in the upper end of your THR range.
“Working very hard (17 to 20) is not better and may be dangerous and/or counterproductive,” warns Scott.
“To maximize both health and fitness benefits, many guests at Pritikin (those without contraindications) are also encouraged to include interval training two to three times weekly as part of their aerobic workout,” says Scott Danberg.
Interval training alternates high and low exercise intensity, often using 1-to-1 time ratios (1 minute of high intensity; 1 minute of low intensity). Generally, you’re in the higher end of your THR zone during high intensity exercise and at the lower end during the low intensity part of your interval training.
Below are helpful RPE descriptions for gauging your exertion level:
“I’m not working hard enough.”
RPE 6 – 8: “I’ve just begun and this is quite easy”.
RPE 9 – 11: “I’m feeling good, I’m warming up, but I’m not feeling much exertion.”
“I’m exercising at moderate intensity to achieve health benefits!”
RPE 12: “I’m doing some work, but it is not uncomfortable.”
RPE 13: “I’m sweating, but feeling good.” (Sweating is your body’s means of cooling down and is not necessarily an accurate measure of exercise intensity.)
RPE 14: “I’m sweating, and I can tell I’m really getting a workout. I could still carry on a conversation.” (The talk test, rather than sweating, is the preferred measure of gauging intensity.)
“Today, I’m exercising vigorously (interval training) to achieve both health and fitness benefits!”
RPE 15: “This is difficult, but I can make it. I could talk if I had to.”
RPE 16: “I am almost at the point where I cannot talk. I can do this another minute or two, but then need a short rest.”
“I’m working too hard.”
RPE 17: “I can’t quite catch my breath, and I’m not sure how long I can do this.”
RPE 18 – 20: “I’m very uncomfortable, my muscles hurt, and speaking is impossible.”
MEDICAL PRECAUTIONS: This article should not be considered specific medical advice, as each individual circumstance is different. You are strongly encouraged to seek medical advice before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have not returned to the Pritikin Longevity Center within the past year or have experienced recent changes in your health.