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Benefits and examples of vigorous physical activity

Vigorous physical activity, sometimes known as high-intensity exercise, helps cardiovascular health, among other health benefits. A simple way to measure the level of activity is a speech test. Vigorous activity prevents one from speaking more than a few words without pausing for breath.

Tea United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity for adults distributed throughout the week.

Older adults should also include balance training and muscle-strengthening activities. Pregnant women should be under the supervision of a doctor.

This article examines the definition of physical activity, benefits and risks, how to modify activities, examples, warm-ups and cool-downs.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vigorous activity involves labored breathing that is heavy and rapid and a significant increase in heart rate. If a person exercises intensively, he cannot say more than a few words without taking a breath.

Metabolic equivalents (METs) are measurement vigorous physical activity. METs are the amount of oxygen a person consumes while resting. So when the activity is 2 METs, a person uses twice as much oxygen as they would use at rest.

Moderate physical activities range between 3 and 6 METs, while vigorous physical activities are ranked above 6 METs.

The benefits of physical exercise are well known, but exercise carries some risk of muscle injury and cardiovascular complications.

Injuries of the musculoskeletal system are common and often refers to the type of activity, intensity, previous conditions and physical anomalies.

Cardiovascular events are much less common than musculoskeletal injuries and generally occur in association with congenital or inherited abnormalities.

There is a greater risk for people who have been sedentary and try to start vigorous exercise quickly. A training program that builds on vigorous exercise better allows the body to adapt.

Various exercises and sports can be modified to allow people with physical disabilities to participate. Some exercises may require additional equipment.

Tea National Center for Health, Physical Activity and Disability hosts an adaptation of the exercise playlist. This includes options for all levels and abilities.

The CDC advises that everyone, including people with disabilities, engage in some vigorous physical activity. Some activity is better than no activity.

To qualify as vigorous physical activity, a person’s heart rate should be 77–93% their maximum heart rate. To calculate this range, a person can subtract their age from 220 and multiply the resulting number by 0.77 and then 0.93.


A person can jog or run outdoors or indoors on a treadmill or track. Proper shoes are key to avoiding injury, and you need to work longer distances and run faster.

Find out the benefits of daily running here.

Swimming in a circle

Swimming laps can be fast raise the heart rate into the zones of maximum effort.

Like running, a person should start with shorter sessions in the pool and work up to more time and distance. I can track my heart rate with a waterproof heart rate monitor or count my heart rate manually for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6.

Swimming it works on the whole body without stressing the joints, unlike many other forms of cardiovascular exercise.

Hard, fast or mountain biking

Cycling for exercise requires setting the resistance on your road bike or exercise bike to be challenging enough to get your heart rate up.

Riding uphill or going fast will also provide a cardiovascular workout.

For safety, people should always wear a helmet and use bike lanes when available.

Jump rope

Jumping rope is a type of exercise that a person can do almost anywhere where there is enough space for the rope to pass over the head. The skipping rope is easy to pack into your bag and take on trips to get cardiovascular exercise on the go.

This activity gets the heart rate up quickly and can be difficult to maintain at first. People should start with a short period of time and work up to longer sessions.

Circuit training with weights

As people age, they lose muscles and bones, and weight training becomes more important to slow down the process. Weight training does not keep the heart rate as high as other cardio exercises, but a person can still raise their heart rate in short bursts throughout the exercise.

In order for weight training to be vigorous enough to get your heart rate up, you should only take short breaks between sets to maintain your pace.

Fitness boxing

Fitness boxing is a high-energy workout that keeps the heart pumping and blood pumping.

Similar to an aerobics class, this type of workout incorporates the cardiovascular benefits and flexibility of boxing training, but avoids the damage of taking punches.

Aerobic equipment

Aerobic equipment can challenge the body, whether it’s an elliptical, stair climber, treadmill or exercise bike.

Since the user chooses which level to set the machine to, he controls the intensity of the workout. Most machines also have heart rate sensors that allow people to monitor their cardiovascular effort.

Warming up before exercise allows the body slowly increase heart rate and breathing and relaxes the muscles.

This usually consists of some static and dynamic (moving) stretches. For weight lifting, it can involve several repetitions of exercises with lighter weights.

Learn dynamic warm-up stretches.

Cooling down after exercise can be either active cooling, such as light running or slow cycling, or passive cooling, such as foam rolling or stretching.

Some coaches and trainers believe that active cooling improves recovery and performance, but one Literature review 2018 found otherwise.

The researchers from that study found that active cooling had some benefits, but overall it didn’t prevent muscle inflammation or improve muscle recovery. They concluded that the choice comes down to individual preferences.

Learn more about active post-exercise cool-down recovery here.

Vigorous physical activity is part of general health. It keeps the cardiovascular system healthy and promotes other health benefits.

The recommendation for adults is 75-150 minutes of vigorous physical activity every week. Activities such as running, lap swimming, basketball, jumping rope and many more require vigorous physical effort. Many exercises can be modified for people with disabilities.

Exercising carries certain risks — injuries to the musculoskeletal system are the most common.

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