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People Underestimate how much Exercise they need, Study Reports

Update Date: Jun 16, 2014 04:18 PM EDT

People know that exercising is important for overall health. However, oftentimes, people are unsure just how much exercise they need. In a new study, researchers examined people's perception of the level of exercise they get and found that many people overrate their exercise intensity levels.

"Our study findings suggest that the majority of young and middle-aged to old adults underestimate the intensity of physical activity that is required to achieve health benefits," stated Professor Jennifer Kuk, School of Kinesiology and Health Science. "This is worrisome both for personal and public health and well-being."

For this study conduct at York University's Faculty of Health located in Canada, the researchers recruited 129 adults between the ages of 18 and 64. The adults were all considered sedentary. The participants were instructed to exercise on a treadmill. They were required to input the speeds that they believed would translate over to light, moderate and vigorous intensity levels.

The researchers found that even after they described to the adults what constituted as light, moderate and vigorous activity, people tended to overrate their exercise levels. For example, people believed that they were performing vigorous physical activity at levels that would not be considered vigorous at all according to the nation's standards. The guidelines state that the heart rate levels for moderate and vigorous intensity should be 64 to 76 percent and 77 to 83 percent of their maximum heart rate respectively.

"We instructed volunteers to walk or jog on the treadmill at a speed which they felt corresponded to the 'light,' 'moderate' and 'vigorous' intensity descriptors used in the physical activity guide, yet they underestimated how hard they should be working to achieve moderate and vigorous intensity," lead researcher and graduate student Karissa Canning explained according to Medical Xpress.

The researchers stated that when people overrate their exercise levels, they end up not getting enough exercise to yield healthful benefits. This study's findings suggest that people need to be better educated and informed about how much exercise they truly need. The study, "Individuals Underestimate Moderate and Vigorous Intensity Physical Activity," was published in PLOS ONE.

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