Empower Yourself with Vigorous Intensity Exercises

vigorous intensity exercises definition

Vigorous physical activity, also known as high-intensity exercise, plays a pivotal role in enhancing cardiovascular health and overall well-being. Unlike moderate exercises, vigorous-intensity exercise demands a significant amount of effort, leading to a notable increase in heart rate and rapid breathing.

Engaging in such activities often renders it challenging to converse in complete sentences. Common examples of vigorous exercises include running, cycling, and singles tennis.

According to recommendations by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, adults should aim for at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous activity spread throughout the week to experience optimal health benefits1.

For older adults, it’s essential to incorporate balance training and muscle-strengthening activities into their routine. Pregnant individuals should consult with a healthcare professional before engaging in vigorous exercise.

Examples of Vigorous Physical Activity 

Many different types of exercise and sports can be performed with vigorous intensity, providing a challenging workout and numerous health benefits. Some examples include:

  • Running or jogging at a fast pace
  • Cycling at high speeds or uphill
  • Playing singles tennis with high intensity
  • Jumping rope vigorously
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts
  • Swimming laps with vigorous effort
  • CrossFit workouts
  • Martial arts such as kickboxing or karate
  • Circuit training with minimal rest between exercises
  • Race walking at a brisk pace
  • High-intensity dance workouts (e.g., Zumba)
  • Plyometric exercises (e.g., jump squats, burpees)
  • High-intensity sports such as basketball, soccer, or rugby
  • Stair climbing or stadium stair workouts
  • Rowing at a fast pace
  • Spinning or indoor cycling classes with high resistance
  • Cross-country skiing or uphill skiing
  • Boxercise or boxing workouts
  • Mountain biking on challenging trails

How to Measure Exercise Intensity

You can Measure Exercise Intensity by talk test, MET and Calories Burned, Heart Rate, and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Reaching a vigorous level of exercise isn’t just about breaking a sweat; it’s about pushing yourself to the limit and feeling the burn. But how do you know when you’ve truly reached that intense level of exertion? Here are some key indicators to help you know for sure:

Talk Test

A talk test is the easiest way to monitor your intensity of exercise. At an intense pace, talking becomes impossible, and you can only utter a few words at a time, not whole sentences. This indicates that your body is working hard to keep up with the demands of the workout.

MET and Calories Burned

The effort required for vigorous-intensity exercise is quantified using metabolic equivalents (MET). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), activities exceeding 6 METs are classified as vigorous intensity. This level of exertion burns more than 7 kilocalories per minute2. Making it six times more energy-intensive than sitting quietly, which burns only 1.2 kilocalories per minute.

Related: Calories Burned Running Per Mile

Heart Rate

Another way to determine vigorous intensity is by monitoring your heart rate. The American Heart Association (AHA) defines vigorous intensity as exercising at a heart rate between 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. This varies depending on factors such as age and fitness level, so it’s essential to use a heart rate zone chart or calculator tailored to your specific profile.

Related: How Do Hear Rate Monitors Work?

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Your subjective perception of effort also plays a crucial role in identifying vigorous intensity. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), on the Borg perceived exertion scale ranging from 6 (no exertion) to 20 (maximal exertion), vigorous intensity falls within the range of 15 to 19. This is when you would subjectively rate your effort as hard, very hard, or extremely hard, indicating a high level of exertion.

Benefits of Vigorous Intensity Exercises

Benefits of Vigorous Intensity Exercises

Feeling like you’re ready to kick things up a notch in your workout routine? You’re onto something good! Engaging in vigorous physical activity isn’t just about sweating it out; it’s about embracing a powerful transformation that can uplift your body and soul. With every intense workout, you’re not just building strength, you’re unleashing a wave of health benefits that can leave you feeling invigorated, alive, and ready to conquer the world.

Lower Risk of Chronic Disease

Engaging in vigorous exercise significantly reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, and various types of cancer. A notable study conducted in 2012 followed over 44,000 men aged 40 to 75 for 22 years, concluding that vigorous exercise was associated with a lower incidence of chronic diseases among participants3.

Improved Brain Health

Vigorous workouts not only get your body moving but also revitalize your brain. Increased blood flow and oxygenation to frontal areas of the brain contribute to improved cognitive function. Research has shown that school-age students who engage in vigorous exercise tend to achieve better academic performance4.

A 2017 study shows that, in older adults, regular participation in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week can significantly lower the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s5.

Enhanced Mood

Exercise, particularly vigorous activity, is a powerful mood booster. A study conducted in 2015 revealed a significant correlation between vigorous exercise and reduced depressive symptoms among over 12,000 participants6. Unlike moderate activity or walking, vigorous exercise demonstrated a notable impact on alleviating depression.

Weight Loss

If shedding unwanted pounds is your goal, vigorous exercise is your ally. Numerous studies have highlighted the effectiveness of vigorous physical activity in promoting weight loss, particularly by targeting abdominal fat, improving glucose/insulin metabolism, and enhancing cardiorespiratory fitness7.

Comparatively, vigorous exercise has shown superior results in weight management when compared to moderate levels of activity. Additionally, individuals who engage in vigorous exercise often experience improvements in blood pressure, blood lipids, and overall cardiovascular health.

Improved Sleep Quality

Vigorous Intensity Exercises Improve sleep quality

Engaging in vigorous physical activity can lead to improved sleep quality and duration. Studies have shown that individuals who regularly participate in vigorous exercise tend to fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper, more restorative sleep compared to those who are less physically active8. The release of endorphins during vigorous exercise can also contribute to a sense of relaxation and overall well-being, promoting better sleep patterns.

How Much Vigorous Exercise Do You Need?

Determining the ideal amount of vigorous exercise is essential for optimizing health and fitness. While the precise duration and frequency may vary depending on individual factors such as age, fitness level, and specific health goals, there are general guidelines to consider.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), adults should aim for at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise spread throughout the week. This recommendation aligns with the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which emphasize the importance of regular physical activity for overall health and well-being9.

For optimal results, it’s recommended to engage in vigorous exercise sessions that last at least 20–30 minutes each. These sessions should be performed at least three to four days per week to achieve significant health benefits. However, you can tailor your exercise regimen based on your personal preferences, fitness level, and time availability.

To prevent boredom and promote continuous improvement, it’s essential to incorporate a variety of vigorous activities into your routine. This can include activities such as long running, cycling, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), swimming, and sports like basketball or soccer. Additionally, gradually increasing the intensity or duration of your workouts over time can help to further enhance your fitness level and performance.

Special Considerations

In addition to the general guidelines for vigorous physical activity, certain populations require special considerations to ensure safe and effective participation.

Vigorous Exercise for Older Adults

As individuals age, their bodies undergo various changes that may affect their ability to engage in vigorous physical activity safely. However, incorporating vigorous exercise into the routines of older adults can provide numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, enhanced strength, and better overall well-being.

To ensure safety and effectiveness, older adults should consult with a healthcare professional before starting a vigorous exercise regimen. Additionally, exercises should focus on activities that minimize joint stress and the risk of injury while still challenging the cardiovascular system and muscles.

Pregnancy and Postpartum Exercise Guidelines

During pregnancy and the postpartum period, women experience significant physiological changes that can impact their ability to engage in vigorous exercise safely. While regular physical activity is generally encouraged for pregnant women, modifications may be necessary to accommodate the changing needs of the body and reduce the risk of injury.

It’s essential for pregnant women to consult with their healthcare provider before starting or continuing any exercise program. Guidelines may vary depending on circumstances, including pre-existing health conditions and the stage of pregnancy. Postpartum exercise should focus on gradual progression, emphasizing pelvic floor health and core stability.

Individuals with Disabilities or Injuries

For individuals with disabilities or injuries, participating in vigorous exercise may require modifications to ensure safety and accessibility. It’s crucial to work with a qualified fitness professional or physical therapist who can develop a tailored exercise program based on individual capabilities and limitations.

Modifications may include using adaptive equipment, adjusting exercise intensity, and focusing on exercises that target specific muscle groups while minimizing stress on injured or affected areas. The goal is to promote physical activity while minimizing the risk of exacerbating existing conditions or causing further injury.

Risks of vigorous intensity exercises

Exercise is awesome for your health, but it’s important to play it safe! Here’s the lowdown on potential risks:

Sometimes, our enthusiasm can lead to muscle strains or injuries, especially if we jump into intense workouts without warming up or pacing ourselves. Slow and steady wins the race!

While rare, heart issues can pop up during exercise, especially if you have underlying conditions. It’s crucial to ease into exercise gradually and get the green light from your doctor, especially if you’ve been a couch potato for a while.

To stay on the safe side, start slow and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Listen to your body, warm up properly, and seek guidance if you’re unsure. Remember, exercise should energize, not endanger!

My Thoughts

These guidelines lay the groundwork for maintaining good health, but there’s always room for improvement. By exceeding the minimum recommendations, you can further boost your fitness and reduce the risk of chronic diseases and weight gain.

Consider using activity monitors to track your progress accurately. These devices estimate the time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, ensuring you meet and even surpass the prescribed criteria. However, if you’re new to vigorous workouts, proceed with caution. Listen to your body and consult with your healthcare provider if you’re unsure about intensifying your routine.

Despite the benefits, it’s crucial to be aware of potential risks, with musculoskeletal injuries being a common concern. By exercising responsibly and being mindful of your body’s signals, you can reap the rewards of vigorous physical activity while minimizing the risk of injury.

8 Sources

  1. American Heart Association. American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity. ↩︎
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. General physical activities defined by level of intensity ↩︎
  3. Chomistek AK, Cook NR, Flint AJ, Rimm EB. Vigorous-intensity leisure-time physical activity and risk of major chronic disease in menMed Sci Sports Exerc. 2012;44(10):1898-905. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31825a68f3 ↩︎
  4. Owens S, Galloway R, Gutin B. The case for vigorous physical activity in youthAm J Lifestyle Med. 2017;11(2):96-115. doi:10.1177/1559827615594585 ↩︎
  5. Macpherson H, Teo WP, Schneider LA, Smith AE. A life-long approach to physical activity for brain healthFront Aging Neurosci. 2017;9:147. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2017.00147 ↩︎
  6. Noh JW, Lee SA, Choi HJ, Hong JH, Kim MH, Kwon YD. Relationship between the intensity of physical activity and depressive symptoms among Korean adults: Analysis of Korea Health Panel dataJ Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(4):1233-7. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.1233 ↩︎
  7. Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Lavie CJ, Earnest CP, Church TS. The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenanceProg Cardiovasc Dis 2014;56(4):441-7. doi:10.1016/j.pcd.2013.09.012 ↩︎
  8. The Effect of Physical Activity on Sleep Quality and Sleep Disorder: A Systematic Review ↩︎
  9. Yang YJ. An overview of current physical activity recommendations in primary careKorean J Fam Med. 2019;40(3):135-142. doi:10.4082/kjfm.19.0038 ↩︎

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