Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: How hard do I have to be working for activity to be considered “moderate”?
A: The intensity of activity considered moderate depends on your level of fitness. A simple recommended way to tell whether you are exercising at moderate-intensity is that you should be able to talk while doing it. But if you can sing, you are not pushing yourself hard enough for it to be considered moderate activity. After a few minutes of activity, if you can’t talk or can only talk in limited bursts, your exercise would be classified as vigorous. The most common choice of moderate activity is walking; for most people, moderate activity corresponds to a pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour (which means walking between three-quarters of a mile and a mile in 15 minutes). For some people, whose sedentary lifestyle, illness or excess weight has led to a low level of fitness, even less demanding whole body movement may actually be moderate activity. Heart rate is sometimes used to determine whether activity is moderate, but certain medications, such as Propranolol, Metoprolol or Atenolol, can make heart rate an inappropriate tool for this purpose. Recommendations for lower cancer risk and better overall health advise us to accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity daily. You’ll likely get even more health benefits, and greater help if you’re seeking weight loss, by accumulating 60 minutes a day (or 30 minutes a day of vigorous activity). This moderate activity can occur as intentional “exercise” or may be accumulated in blocks of 10 minutes or more as part of transportation to a job, school or errands; household chores; or work. Decreasing sedentary time by boosting light activity also appears to provide health benefits, but for most people it cannot replace the health protection that comes from regular moderate activity.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.