No busy woman needs to consider her gym a second home. But with all the varying reports on the proposed length and intensity of your weekly workouts, how is anyone supposed to know how to effectively and expeditiously achieve optimal results?
While it’s good to say that any physical activity is good activity, being both consist and challenged is key. Moderate to vigorous physical activity has shown to have numerous health benefits like lowering your risk of diabetes, increasing lung capacity, providing stress relief and overall extending the length of your life. In 2005, Oscar H. Franco of the Erasmus M.C. University Medical Center in Rotterdam led a study of over 5,000 participants middle-aged and older. The study found that moderate to vigorous exercise extended their lives by 1.3 to 3.7 years, primarily because it reduced participants’ risk for heart disease which also happens to be the number one cause of death in women.
According to the World Health Organization (WHC), the average adult ages 18-64 should get at least two and a half hours of moderate physical activity, or an hour and fifteen minutes of vigorous activity in each week.  However, in order to lose a significant amount of weight or to see additional health benefits, the WHC suggests increasing that time to four hours of moderate activity, or two and a half hours of vigorous activity a week. If that seems overwhelming, try splitting these workouts up to best fit your schedule. Both levels achieve results, but the more often you step it up, the sooner you’ll reap the rewards of all that hard work.
Moderate intensity is activity where you’re able to talk during the exercise session, but you wouldn’t be able to sing. Think walking briskly, biking less than 10 miles per hour, golfing or ballroom dancing.  During vigorous activity, you can only say a few words. Examples are running, biking faster than 10 miles an hour, taking a fitness class, or playing soccer. You can best determine your intensity by staying within your target heart rate range with the help of a heart rate monitor. Staying within 65-85% is considered moderate to vigorous. It’s important to note that in the past, your target heart rate range was determined by using the formula 220 minus your age multiplied by 65-85% of your maximum heart rate for both men and women. However, last summer researchers at Northwestern Medicine here in Chicago found that for women, this range was insurmountable and led female exercisers to near exhaustion. They now suggest 206 minus 88% of your age, then multiplying that number by 65-85%. By lowering the range, it would give women a more achievable way to reach aerobic fitness and still benefit. Target Heart Rate (THR) for a 35-year-old woman at 65-85% of her Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) at moderate to vigorous intensity:
Old Formula:                                                       New Formula:
220 – 35 = 185 MHR                                       .88 x 35 =30.8
185 x .65 = 120.25                                           206-30.8 =  175.2 MHR
185 x .85 = 157.25                                            175.2 x .65 = 113.88
THR = 120.25 to 157.25                                  175.2 x .85 = 148.92
                                                                            THR = 113.88 to 148.92
 If your body hasn’t changed in 4-6 weeks, check in with yourself about how hard you’re really working. While it’s always best to consult a doctor before beginning or significantly changing your workout program, keeping physically active at an appropriate level throughout the week is essential to living a longer, healthier life.
Photo Credit: gosphotodesign
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