The "Talk Test" Will Help You Figure Out How Intense Your Workout Is

Want to know how intense your workout is? Try the talk test.

The World Health Organization recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week, but if you’re not sure your favorite fitness routine is getting you there, the talk test might be your answer.

According to the CDC, the talk test is a simple way to measure the relative intensity of an activity based on how physical activity affects heart rate and breathing. In general, if you can talk but not sing while you’re doing the exercise, it’s moderate intensity. Physical therapist Nicholas Rolnick explains that your “voice might be labored,” but you can still carry on a conversation, something that would be impossible during the most intense workouts.

The talk test can help you “make sure that you’re hitting the intensity of exercise that you want to hit in order to meet physical activity-recommended guidelines.” The CDC reports that activities in the moderate intensity level include:

  • Walking briskly (three miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking)
  • Water aerobics
  • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour on primarily flat or level terrain without hills
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Ballroom dancing
  • General gardening

If you’re doing vigorous-intensity activity, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Activities in that level include:

  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster that may include hills
  • Jumping rope


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