Increase your intensity to see results

Since beginning the healthy lifestyle journey you may have rejoiced in a little bit of weight loss. Proud of your achievements, you have kept up the momentum with your regular exercise but no more weight has shifted. While it can be heartbreaking, it's not hopeless - it might just mean you have to step it up a notch. This is because your exercise intensity, or how hard you exercise, is just as important as how often you exercise. Accredited Exercise Physiologist Emma Briskey gives us the lowdown on how to pump up our exercise intensity to fast-track your journey to a healthier you.


Levels of exercise intensity

There are four levels of intensity: light, moderate, vigorous and high intensity. The table below outlines each of the intensity levels in more detail.


Level of intensity

How you would rate it

(1 = Too easy!

10 = I can barely breathe!)

How you should feel

Types of Activities

Light / Low / Easy

1-2  /  10

No noticeable change in your breathing or heart rate.

Activities you can maintain for 60 minutes or longer.E.g. Slow walk, light gardening or housework


Moderate / Somewhat hard

3-4  /  10

A noticeable change in your breathing and heart rate. You might feel slightly puffed.

Activities you can maintain for 30 - 60 minutes and still talk uninterruptedE.g. Brisk walk, recreational cycling, canoeing,swimming, dancing



5-6  /  10

A big change in your breathing and heart rate. You will be quite puffed.

Activities you can maintain for up to 30 minutes. Talking will be difficult.E.g. Running,basketball, tennis


High / Hard

7-10  /  10

A significant increase in your breathing and heart rate. You will be extremely puffed.

Activities you generally cannot sustain for longer than 10 minutes.E.g.  Sprints, heavy weights



What intensity should I exercise at?

The right exercise intensity for you will depend on your age, general health, fitness levels and goals. It's usually best to start out with low to moderate intensity exercise. Try and aim for at least 10 consecutive minutes of activity and continue to increase this to at least 30 minutes a day if possible. Regular activity can be challenging at the start but don't be deterred! Your body will soon adapt and the exercise will become easier over time.


You should try and challenge yourself a little bit more when you start to find your regular exercise becoming easier. This is when you up the intensity - if safe to do so. You can do this by exercising for longer or increasing your exercise intensity. Rather than avoiding all the hills, try and include some in your walk. Or why not add in some of the activities from thePump It Uparticle featured in the February edition of Healthy U?


Remember to always listen to your body and be guided by how you feel. If you become unwell during exercise or experience any pain, it is important that you stop and make an appointment to see your GP. If you have not done regular exercise for some time, or you have a medical condition or injury, you should speak to your GP or Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) before starting an exercise program. This is especially important if you want to include some vigorous or high intensity exercise. An AEP will advise you on safe and appropriate exercise. To find your nearest AEP visit

Source: ESSA. (2011).Exercise Intensity Guidelines.