The most accurate way to determine exercise intensity is to measure a person’s ventilatory threshold, but this isn’t practical unless you’re exercising in a lab. For this reason, some fitness professionals recommend a low-tech way to monitor exercise intensity – the exercise talk test.
What is the Talk Test?
The principle behind the exercise talk test is that it’s hard to speak in complete sentences when you’re working out at a higher intensity. If you’re able to speak comfortably, you’re working out at a moderate intensity or lower. Another way to measure exercise intensity is to calculate your maximum heart rate and use a heart rate monitor to tell you what percent of your maximum heart rate you’re reaching. If you’re working out at a moderate intensity, your heart rate should be between 60 and 75% of your maximum heart rate.
How Effective is the Exercise Talk Test?
The exercise talk test has its advantages. It’s an easy way to measure exercise intensity without the need for equipment, but how accurate is it? A new study carried out by the University of New Hampshire recently validated the effectiveness of this simple tool.
Researchers had a group of healthy adults recite the Pledge of Allegiance while they worked out while measuring their exercise intensity. They found when the participants could no longer comfortably talk; they were approaching their lactate threshold. The talk test seems to be a simple way to tell you when you’ve reached the high intensity zone.
It’s also a way for beginners to monitor whether they’re working too hard. When you first start out, it’s best to exercise at a moderate intensity for a few weeks until you’ve built up a certain level of fitness. Once you’ve reached a baseline fitness level, training around the lactate threshold for periods of time can boost fitness levels more and give more of an after-burn where your metabolism is revved up for hours and even days after your workout is finished.
Use It to Monitor Your Exercise Intensity
When you’re doing interval training and want to exercise at a high intensity for short periods of time, use the talk test to see if you’re working hard enough. If you can’t say a sentence without stopping to take a deep breath, you’re approaching your lactate threshold.
There’s more of an emphasis on training at higher levels of intensity using techniques such as interval training because of the additional fitness and because you can work out for a shorter period of time and still get benefits. Pushing yourself to the point where you’re unable to pass the talk test can pay off with greater fitness gains. Just don’t do it until you’ve worked out for at least a few weeks at a moderate intensity.
The Bottom Line?
If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, use the talk test to gauge how hard you’re working. It’s simple, and it works.
Science Daily. “New Data Tests the Exercise Talk Test”
NY Times Blog. “Rethinking the Exercise Talk Test”