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Turning light activity into moderate activity

This is an excerpt from Active Living Every Day, Second Edition, by Steven N. Blair, Andrea L. Dunn, Bess H. Marcus, Ruth Ann Carpenter, Peter Jaret


In addition to increasing the amount of time you are active, you can also increase your daily physical activity by cranking up the intensity. Light-intensity activity is any physical activity more strenuous than sleeping and less strenuous than a brisk walk. Moderate-intensity walking means walking a mile (1.6 km) in 15 to 20 minutes, a pace of 3 to 4 miles (4.8-6.4 km) an hour. It’s similar to the way you walk when you’re hurrying to make an appointment or to get out of the cold. Vigorous-intensity activities include jogging, riding a bicycle uphill, participating in a strenuous aerobics class, or playing a strenuous sport.

Here are a few simple ways to turn light activity into moderate activity:

  • Let’s say you usually stroll to the cafeteria on your afternoon break. Instead of walking leisurely, take a brisk walk. You’ll turn a light activity into a moderate one. (Go the long way around, and you’ll use even more energy.)
  • When it’s time to vacuum the house, put on your favorite fast dance music and try to keep up. If you feel yourself getting slightly winded, then you’re doing moderate-intensity activity.
  • Love to shop? First take a fast-paced walk around the mall or shopping area, glancing at what the windows have to offer. Once you’ve completed your circuit, reward yourself by going back to check out things that intrigued you.

Activity Alert

Turning Up the Intensity

In the following space, write down two light-intensity activities that you are willing to crank up into moderate-intensity activities simply by picking up the pace. You can also download a copy of this form from the ALED Online Web site.

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Turning Moderate Activity Into Vigorous Activity

Most of the people in our programs are inactive and want to become more active. Their goal is to move from light to moderate activity levels and meet the guideline in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (Department of Health and Human Services 2008) of 150 minutes per week. But some people are already fairly active and want to push themselves harder. That’s great—the more vigorous your activities, the less time it takes to achieve the guideline. If you continue to get 150 minutes per week but at a vigorous intensity, you’ll improve your fitness and reap even greater health benefits. Examples of vigorous activities include the following:

  • Racewalking, jogging, or running
  • Tennis
  • Raquetball
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Bicycling 10 miles (16 km) per hour or faster
  • Hiking uphill
  • Swimming laps
  • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)

If you’re ready to move from moderate to vigorous intensity, choose an activity that you feel comfortable doing and increase the intensity. For example, if you’re comfortable with brisk walking, try jogging or running instead. Start by jogging for just a couple of minutes, and then return to walking briskly. When you’re ready, jog again for a couple of minutes. As with any new activity, it’s wise to take things slowly, gradually increasing the intensity. In the following space, write down two moderate activities that you are willing to crank up into vigorous activities simply by picking up the pace. You can also download a copy of this form from the ALED Online Web site.

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