By beginning an exercise program, you are doing good things for both your body and your brain. Research shows adults gain significant benefits when they achieve 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week, but how can you tell just how much effort you are exerting? How exactly do you measure intensity? 

Learn the "talk test"

Fortunately, you don’t need a personal trainer or any fancy equipment—the “talk test” is one of the easiest and most low-tech tools you can use to determine how hard you are working. Aerobic activity influences your heart rate and your breathing, so your ability to talk during exercise provides a simple way to gauge your intensity. All you need to do is try to talk while you’re exercising! 

When you’re exercising at a moderate intensity: 

  • You can maintain a steady conversation with a friend, without having to pause or gasp for breath

  • You can comfortably recite a poem

  • You can talk, but you can’t sing (if you can manage a few rounds of “Happy Birthday,” you are exercising below a moderate intensity)

If you’re working out at a vigorous intensity: 

  • You will not be able to get out more than a few words at a time—maintaining a steady conversation becomes impossible

  • Anything more than a “yes” or “no” answer is difficult

The talk test can be used across a variety of types of exercise. Whether you’re walking, doing yoga, hiking, cycling, or playing tennis, this simple tool can provide valuable feedback in helping you meet your exercise goals.