Study finds most Canadians overestimate the intensity of exercise

TORONTO – Canadians underestimate how hard they need to work to reach a moderate or vigorous level of exercise, according to a study from researchers at York University.

The study was funded by The Heart and Stroke Foundation, and tested 129 people of various  weights, sexes and ethnicities.   The study results suggest a majority of Canadians underestimate the intensity of their exercise regimes.

“Our study findings suggest that the majority of young and middle-aged to old adults underestimate the intensity of physical activity that is required to achieve health benefits,” Professor Jennifer Kuk, of the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University said. “When we take a look at the national statistics for how many people are active, this might paint a picture that Canada might be worse off than we actually are.”

Researchers put their subjects on treadmills and asked them to walk or jog at speeds they believed represented light, moderate or vigorous activity.

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All subjects rated the light activity accurately, but the majority underestimated moderate and vigorous activity.

“You shouldn’t feel winded at the moderate intense exercise, you should be able to speak at a normal pace,” Dr. Kuk said. “Once you start feeling breathless and winded – then you’re approaching the vigorous or  maximal exercise.”

Health Canada recommends adults between the ages of 18 and 64 should get 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise each week and sustained for ten minutes or more during each workout.

“That moderate exercise is very good for improving risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” says Kuk.

Moderate activity should cause a person’s heart rate to reach  64 to 76 per cent of the maximum heart rate.  Vigorous intensity, is when a subject’s heart rate reaches 77 to 83 percent of the maximum.  Kuk says an accepted calculation to find a person’s  maximum heart rate, is to subtract your age from 220.

“If you want to improve fitness you need to get at least, into that moderate range,” says Kuk.

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