How Hard Am I Working

How Hard Am I Working?

We all know the benefits of cardio exercise: better cardio-respiratory health, improved energy endurance, toning muscles,  and cutting fat. So, how hard should I be working? Thankfully, exercise intensity can be evaluated pretty easily.

Using a kettlebell at the gymTalk Test

Probably the easiest way to evaluate training intensity, the Talk Test simply looks at how much you can talk during exercise and relates that to how hard you’re working. Different organizations have varying rating scales, but they all follow a general format:

Low intensity: able to engage in casual conversation/able to sing

Moderate intensity: able to engage in conversation, but unable to sing

High intensity: just barely able to respond to conversation

Depending on the benefits you want to achieve, you would train at different levels of intensity. 

Rate of Perceived Exertion

RPE is used to assess training intensity by the individual exercising based on a numerical scale. The participant is to give a number based on how hard they are exercising, taking into account overall physical stress and fatigue rather than an individual factor, such as leg pain. One of the more commonly used scales is the Borg CR10 scale, seen below:

The Borg CR10 Test


Target Heart Rate

Generally, a good formula for estimating maximal heart rate is 220 minus your age (females, 228 minus your age). 

Your heart rate can be taken by palpating your radial pulse for 10 seconds then multiplying that number by 6 to obtain the number of beats per minute. As exercise intensity increases, so does heart rate, so knowing what percentage of your maximal heart rate you are at is a good indicator of how hard you are working. The table below provides target heart rate “zones” that focus on different physiological benefits. 


Talk to a healthcare professional if you’re unsure about how intense you should be working so that you can plan a safe and effective exercise program.

painPRO for Employers

Helping you with employee health and productivity.

See How

We’re Hiring

Join our team and help us improve lives.

Learn More