Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size
A
A
A

Workout Is Likely Working

Perceived Exercise Intensity Is an Indicator of Heart Health
By
WebMD Health News

Feb. 18, 2003 -- If it feels like you're pushing yourself, you're probably doing enough to help your heart.

A new study looks at this issue of exercise intensity. While current American Heart Association guidelines call for "moderate-intense activity," it's not always clear to exercisers whether they are doing enough. Should we push the envelope a bit more? This study is aimed at clearing up the mystery.

"We've always said that a good, moderate activity was brisk walking, at 6 mph.... If you are a marathon runner, that's a piece of cake. But if you are my 93-year-old grandmother, that's not very realistic, she couldn't do that," lead researcher I-Min Lee, MBBS, ScD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, tells WebMD.

Her study appears in the current issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In it, Lee and colleagues track the health of nearly 7,400 men -- all in their mid-60s -- to see how the intensity of their workout stacked up against incidence of heart disease from 1988 to 1995. The men rated their activities as weak or less intense, moderate, somewhat strong, or strong and intense. They found that 551 men developed heart disease -- heart attacks or angina -- or had heart procedures including bypass or angioplasty of a clogged artery.

Who didn't develop heart disease? Those who described their workouts as "intense" had 40% less risk, reports Lee.

Her rule of thumb: "If it feels somewhat difficult, then it's good for you. You are getting some heart benefit."

The study showed that the patient's perceived exercise exertion was a strong predictor of future heart health even among those who did not meet the current recommendation for moderate-intense physical activity.

Right on, says Joseph Miller, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "There's a big misconception, that when we tell people to go out and exercise, we're not trying to turn you into a marathoner. The real goal is to start exercising, and to push yourself till you're feeling fatigued."

"I think we discourage people sometimes," Miller tells WebMD. "People have a vision that they need to be wearing spandex and get out and kill themselves, and that's really not the goal. If you're used to sitting at a desk all day, a 20-minute walk is what you need. You don't have to be speed walking."

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
Teen girl jogging
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article