What are Sedentary, Moderate & High Activity Exercise Levels?

Running is an example of a high-intensity exercise level.
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Regular exercise is a crucial part of staying healthy. But if you are gaining and losing weight constantly, you might need to tweak your workouts. Not all exercise is created equal — an intense workout will torch more calories than one performed at a slow pace.



Use an activity level chart or determine your activity level by step count. People who are gaining and losing weight constantly can figure out which category they fit.

Move Your Body

Your body is designed to move. It is important, however, to pay attention to the type and intensity of exercise you perform. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise weekly to improve their cardiovascular health.

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These guidelines are identical to the ones given by the Center for Disease Control for people looking to maintain a healthy body weight. To properly categorize your activity, it helps to consult the AHA's activity level chart.


For those trying to exercise at a moderate level, activities like water aerobics in the pool, biking and brisk walking fit the criteria. Other workouts, such as ballroom dancing or doubles tennis, also apply. Even gardening is enough to meet AHA standards for moderate exercise.

If you are attempting to get more vigorous with your workout, try swimming laps, jogging or jumping rope. Playing singles tennis or biking faster than 10 miles per hour also qualifies as a high-intensity activity. You can also grab a hoe or shovel and do some heavy gardening, or go for a hilly hike to meet the AHA's criteria for this type of exercise.


Activity Level by Steps

Many people who are gaining and losing weight constantly use walking as an easy and inexpensive form of exercise. In this case, it's easy to track your activity level by step count.

Simply attach a pedometer to your waist or use the step counter function on your phone while you go about your day. Each night before bed, record your total steps for the day so that you can chart your daily levels.


Read more: How Many Steps Per Day to Lose Weight?

According to the 10,000 Steps Project, people who take fewer than 5,000 steps a day have a sedentary lifestyle. Increasing your activity level to anywhere between 7,500 and 10,000 steps would place you into the moderate, or somewhat active, level. Only those individuals who take more than 12,500 steps each day are considered highly active.


If you are struggling to advance to higher levels of activity, small modifications to your day can help. Try parking further away when going to work, or while running errands. You can also use the stairs instead of an elevator. Sometimes, minor changes like these can make a big difference in your daily step count.


Read more: The 10,000 Steps a Day Challenge


Check Your Heart Rate

Monitoring your heart rate is an easy way to determine your exercise category. The American College of Cardiology provides a helpful activity level chart to assist with this. To begin, determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your current age in years from 220. This number can be used along with your pulse to determine how hard you're working out.


If you take this number and multiply it by 0.6, you will determine your pulse rate (per minute) at when working out at a moderate pace. Multiplying the same number by 0.7 will show you the heart rate at which you are considered to be vigorously working out. Anything lower than the moderate pulse rate puts you into the sedentary category.

Read more: My Heart Rate Rises With Light Activity


In addition to checking your pulse, the American College of Cardiology suggests using the "talk test" to determine exercise intensity. Individuals who are able to sing while working out may not be exercising hard enough. If you can't sing but you're able to talk while training, you are most likely working out at a moderate intensity. Those who are vigorously working out will only be able to say a few words during the activity.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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