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NAP Challenge #5: Increase the Intensity!

Man and woman walking up stairs -- bluryCongratulations! You are now walking more minutes/steps each week. Now it's time to boost the intensity for you to reap greater health benefits, and add some variety (and fun!) to your routine. This week you'll learn what higher intensity activity feels like for you and will creatively incorporate it into your physical activity every day.

Adding UP Minutes: This week I will continue my usual activity and I will track the number of minutes I do moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity each day. Next week I will aim to increase this total by 5-10 minutes.


Stepping On UP: This week I will continue my usual activity and I will track the number steps I take doing moderate-to-vigorous intensitay activity each day using my pedometer. Next week I will aim to increase this total amount by 500 steps.


This week's challenge focuses on gauging the intensity level of your workout and challenges you to push yourself beyond the light-intensity physical activities of daily life for several minutes each day.

Every step you take is beneficial; however, research suggests that boosting the intensity of some of those steps every day will help you to get the most out of them and gain the most health-enhancing benefits, including cancer prevention. With higher intensity activities you burn more calories per minute and can make a significant contribution toward attaining (or maintaining) a healthy weight. The AICR's ultimate goal is to include 60 minutes of moderate-intensity or 30 minutes of vigorous-intensity activities every day.

The first step in this challenge is to understand the intensity level of your current physical activity routine.

Rule #1: Don't compare yourself to other people.

While there are general guides to help you determine the intensity level of a given activity, the exact level will be different for everyone and will vary depending on your current level of fitness. If you are new to physical activity, the pace of your moderate-intensity workout may be slower than that of someone who has been working out for several months. Work to understand your own intensity goals and challenge yourself within your own limits.

Start by taking the Talk Test while you are doing your usual physical activity to understand how much time you currently spend doing either moderate or vigorous intensity activity; you will build from this point. The Talk Test is a simple and reliable way to gauge your intensity level and it doesn't require any special equipment:

  • If you are able to sing while doing activities = LIGHT intensity
  • If you are able to carry on a conversation easily while doing activities = MODERATE intensity
  • If you have a difficult time talking during activities or if you become winded or out of breath = VIGOROUS intensity

Rule #2: Keep track of your intensity levels in your challenge log.

In addition to the time or number of steps, record the type of activity, the intensity level, and any other notes that might be helpful (e.g. I was late and walking to catch the bus, I was walking up stairs, etc.). This will help to remind you how to reproduce this level of intensity in the future.

Knowledge is Power! Did You Know?

That sitting burns 1 calorie per minute, standing burns 1.5 calories per minute and brisk walking burns 7 calories per minute? Thirty minutes of walking burns about 210 calories and 60 minutes burns 420 calories wow!

Rule #3: Increase the intensity level of your physical activity slowly and safely.

Start with moderate activities before you progress to vigorous ones. And be sure to warm-up for a few minutes at a light intensity before engaging in higher intensity activities.

For those "Adding UP Minutes": Take the total number of minutes you spent doing moderate intensity activity last week and increase it by 5-10 minutes. Let's say you now spend 15 minutes daily or 105 minutes weekly doing moderate-intensity activities. Add 5-10 minutes to your total moderate-intensity activity time next week. You can split up the higher intensity minutes any way you want: add 5 minutes on two days, add 2 minutes on five days, etc. The key is to boost your intensity level for a few more minutes each week. Come on! Make every minute count! Let's get MOVING!

For those "Stepping On UP": Take the total number of steps you took doing moderate-to-vigorous intensity activities and increase it by 500-1,000 steps. Let's say you are now stepping about 5000 steps daily at a moderate pace. Add a total of 500 steps at a moderate-to-vigorous pace by the end of next week. You can split up the higher intensity steps any way you want: add 100 steps on five days, add 250 steps on two days, etc. The key is to boost your intensity level for a few more minutes each week. Come on! Make every step count! Let's get STEPPING!


  • Break it up. Add short bursts of intensity to your daily activities. It doesn't need to be done all at once. Ditch the leaf blower - take advantage of nice weather and sweep your garage, driveway or sidewalk with vigor!
  • Make it a game. Challenge yourself to pick up the pace between street lights or parking meters during a walk.
  • Set a timer. Program your watch to beep at certain intervals to remind you to boost the intensity during your workout.
  • Hunt for a hill (or the stairs!). Increasing the incline of your walk will also boost the intensity level. Find a walking route with a hill or climb the stairs when indoors. Do you ride the metro? Walk up the escalator you'll get a good workout and save time.
  • Walk to the beat. Make a workout soundtrack that includes songs with a mix of fast and slow beats. Pace yourself to the beat of the music.
  • Add in calisthenics. A few minutes of jumping jacks or running in place will add a boost of intensity to your usual routine.
  • Find a partner. Working out with someone at the same fitness level as you can help keep you motivated to keep up the intensity level.
  • Routinely evaluate your intensity level. As you become more fit you may need to push yourself a little harder to reach a moderate or vigorous pace.
  • Write it down. Keep track of what physical activity you did, its intensity-level, and how you felt doing it. This will help you to evaluate your routine moving forward.
  • Hydrate! As your workouts become more intense, remember to drink water throughout the day.
  • Don't give up if you miss a day or two. Get back on track with what you can do for physical activities; try new activities and strategies until you find activity routines that work for you!

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