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question

What is the "talk test” and is it accurate to measure exercise intensity?

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine
answer
The biggest problem with individuals and cardiovascular training is how to determine the intensity you should train at. There are many ways to do this but all of them have their flaws. The talk test is one way to determine your exercise intensity. In theory, if you can still talk while exercising you are in an aerobic state (using oxygen to create energy for your muscles). Once you can’t talk any longer, your breathing rate has increased past a point which is called, ventilatory threshold or anaerobic threshold.  Now your body is creating energy from stored systems in your body such as muscle glucose, creatine or ATP (directly in the muscle). The talk test helps determine which energy system you are using to create energy in the body, aerobic or anaerobic. The best way to really determine what energy system you are using is to do a treadmill or bike test while  ventilation is measured through a mask. Using this data, the test administrator can determine the actual break point between the two systems. This type of testing is becoming more popular and is more affordable for fitness centers. If this test is not available to you, then the talk test is a good start. The most important factor is that you are listening to your body and trying to use different energy systems. Make sure you do some workouts during which you can maintain a conversation throughout and others where you are working at a higher level which pushes you into using the higher energy systems. The key to effective cardio training is utilizing a variety of intensities.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.