Steps, kilometers or miles, METs or watts, moderate or vigorous, the list can get longer depending on the technology available to you for your data sports activities.
What to do with all this information?
Let’s first talk about what it is.
A few bits are easy to understand. We have steps, kilometers, and miles, with the first being a count of how many steps you take, and the latter two being how far you travel. METS or watts are a little less well known, but if you ever walked on a treadmill or used a stationary bike, you may have seen these points of data on the screen. A watt is a measure of power created (go to your microwave oven – is it a small 800 watt or the more powerful 1200 watt?). So yes, in theory, you could power your microwave by riding a stationary bike. You’d have to ride pretty darn hard though, so let’s not even talk about that.
Moving on down our list, we have METs or the Metabolic Equivalent of energy. A MET is a rate the body burns energy with one MET being the rate of energy burned while the body is at rest. For the average adult, this approximates 3.5 milliliters of oxygen uptake per kilogram of body weight per minute (1.2 kcal/min for a 70-kg individual) and oh, how quickly I have lost you, right? To be honest, this level of detail is not necessary for the average person. METs can be used to determine how long you need to perform an activity to burn a specific number of calories. Then again, is this level of specifics necessary? I say it is not, except possibly for those in athletic training. If you are interested in the computation, check out this.
The Center for Disease Control provides a nice summary of activities that fall into a moderate range and those that are considered vigorous.
Does intensity even matter?
If you want to lose weight, intensity most certainly does matter. A research review recently published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise that there is a relationship between physical activity and weight gain. Ok, so was there really a question before this conclusion? I wanted to respond with “well, duh?” but I did not. As with any research, there is more to the conclusion than a simple statement and hence, the catch. I read on to see that the review examined research on both volume and dose-response. In other words, how much, and at what intensity level, does exercise become an effective weight-loss tool?
The evidence supports the need for more than 150 minutes a week. It also strongly supports a relationship between a moderate to vigorous intensity level and weight loss. Furthermore, and more importantly, in my opinion, the evidence does not support a relationship between light intensity and weight loss. This means we must ramp it up, folks. Walking around the neighborhood is not going to be enough for most of us to burn off any extra adipose tissue, more commonly referred to as fat.
The ‘talk method’ for determining the intensity
I say forget the numbers, and the data when it comes to figuring out your intensity level. Seriously. We did not even talk about heart rate, calories, or that elusive Fat Burning Zone. Another time. Here is the ‘intensity for us mere mortals’ calculation. If you can carry on a normal conversation without needing to pause for a breath, you are performing at a light intensity. If you can talk in full sentences, but need to pause to breathe, then you are in the moderate-intensity range. Also, if it is at best four words before you are sucking in that air, you have entered the vigorous-intensity range.
If you cannot speak, you have arrived at the danger zone.
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