There is a fine line between exercise and increased activity. Someone can walk everyday and still not exercise enough to help them lose weight. Although increasing activity can improve your health, it is not as effective when it comes to weight loss.
What is the difference between exercise and activity?
A good example for activity would be walking your dog or a taking a morning stroll. Exercise is typically more structured and purposeful. Good examples would be a power walk, jog or aerobics class.
For most people, your heart rate is probably the best indicator of aerobic exercise and caloric expenditure. In order to find out where you should exercise you need to figure out your maximum heart rate, which according to the American Heart Association is 220 minus your age. Then, multiply that number by 65% for a low intensity workout or 85% for a higher intensity workout.
Here is an example for a thirty year old:
Tracking your heart rate can be pretty easy when using a treadmill. Most treadmills have a chart on the machine to tell you where you need to be, but what if you are out walking in your neighborhood? You can either buy a heart rate monitor (like this Polar RC3 heart rate monitor Steve uses), or you can get an estimate by counting your heart beat within a ten second span and multiplying it by six.
For example, the same thirty year old would need to maintain a heart rate of 21 beats over a ten second span for a low intensity workout. For a higher intensity workout, the ideal heart rate would be 27 beats. Of course it is not as accurate as a heart rate monitor but it can give you an idea of where you are.
Although heart rate is normally the best indication of caloric expenditure, there are some exceptions. Some people’s resting heart rate can be slower than normal, a condition called Bradycardia, or it can be faster than normal, called Tachycardia. However, for the general population, the heart rate is the best way to monitor aerobic exercise and calories burned.
So, if you are not sure if you are exercising at the right pace, just ask your heart. It will tell on you in a jiffy!