I’m Trying to Exercise, But Am I Doing Enough to Keep My Heart Healthy?

| Andrew Rapacz

How to know if you’re achieving the desired level of cardiovascular activity

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008) guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate cardiovascular physical activity. As discussed in last week’s blog, many of us aren’t reaching that standard and it puts us at risk for health complications and cardiovascular disease. Maybe you’ve already started an exercise program or are just looking to start. Many people wonder what does “moderate” cardiovascular activity really mean? A good and valid question to make sure we’re not selling ourselves short our reaching our exercise goals. Here are a few tips and tricks to guide your cardiovascular activity.

There are a few ways to measure if you’re achieving “moderate” cardiovascular activity and they center around your heart rate. Generally, we classify moderate cardiovascular activity as an activity that gets you working out at approximately 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. Maximum heart rate is approximated by age as 220 (beats per minute, bpm) Minus Your Age = Maximum Heart Rate. For example, if you are 60 years old: 220 – 60 = 160 Beats Per Minute (BPM); then your target heart rate for moderate physical activity would be 96 – 112 BPM. You can take your heartbeat by checking your pulse for 15 seconds and multiplying by 4.

Other ways to monitor your level of activity are using the “talk test” or Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Using the “talk test” exercising in the “moderate” cardiovascular activity range you should be able to talk, but not sing. If you can only get out a few words at a time you’ve transitioned into the “vigorous” activity level (not all bad). The RPE subjectively has you subjectively rate your level of exertion from 6 (No exertion) to 20 (maximal exertion). Exertion levels 12 – 16 generally fall into the “moderate” activity level.

Types of activities that fall into the “moderate” cardiovascular activity level will vary for everyone based on age, fitness level, and other factors, but in general here are examples of activities that may fall into the “moderate” tier: brisk walking, walking up/down the stairs, cycling, lap swimming, and many more!

It can be intimidating and overwhelming to start an exercise routine on your own. Working with an exercise professional is a great way to help find the right exercise program for you and monitor your activity to ensure you’re exercising at the desired work rate. Live Your Life Physical Therapy has a team of knowledgeable professionals including exercise physiologists, personal trainers, and physical therapists that can help assess your needs and get you started on the right track. Live Your Life professionals will work directly with you in your home, exercise facility, or wherever you are most comfortable; help create appropriate fitness goals, and motivate and guide you through a program to improve your overall heart health and wellness. Contact us today for a free consultation!

Andrew Rapacz, B.S., EP-C
Personal Trainer

Andrew holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota (2009) and a Master of Organizational Leadership Certificate from St. Catherine University (2016). He is accredited through the American College of Sports Medicine as a Certified Exercise Physiologist (2011).

Andrew has worked in the adaptive fitness world of neurological rehabilitation since 2009. He helped foster program growth and expansion of adaptive fitness opportunities for individuals with Spinal Cord Injury and other neurological diagnoses through Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute’s Activity-Based Locomotor Exercise (ABLE) program, part of Allina Health, establishing Minnesota’s first and only Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s NeuroRecovery Network Community Fitness and Wellness Facility. He also works as a contract installer of FES products for Restorative Therapies, Inc. providing installation, education, and training for FES home users throughout the Upper Midwest. 

Additionally, Andrew serves as a Board Member of Get Up Stand Up to Cure Paralysis Foundation (gusu2cure.org) a nonprofit organization in Minnesota working to unite, educate and support those dealing with Spinal Cord Injuries and to advocate for research and the restoration of function. GUSU’s initiatives include advocating for SCI Research; community involvement through peer group and one-on-one peer mentoring and promoting adaptive fitness.

He enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters living an active and healthy lifestyle, enjoying the outdoors through cycling, running, hiking, and gardening. When he’s not outside Andy enjoys following University of Minnesota athletics, Vikings, Twins, MNUFC, Wild, Timberwolves, and Liverpool FC; listening to music, and reading.

1. American Department of Cardiology. (2015). Exercising: Measuring Intensity. Retrieved from https://www.cardiosmart.org/~/media/Documents/Fact%20Sheets/en/abk5262.ashx
2. Blackwell, D.L., Clarke, T.C. (2018). State Variation in Meeting the 2008 Federal Guidelines for Both Aerobic and Muscle-strengthening Activities Through Leisure-time Physical Activity Among Adults Aged 18-64:United States, 2010-2015. National Health Statistics Report, 112. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr112.pdf
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1998) Perceived Exertion (Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion) Retrieved from http://dhhs.ne.gov/ConcussionManage/Documents/BorgScaleExertion.pdf
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). Heart Disease: It Can Happen at Any Age. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/index.html
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Guidelines for Physical Activity. Retrieved from https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/paguide.pdf

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