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Physical activity helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases and improve weight management. Regular exercise can also improve glucose metabolism, regulate blood pressure, improve blood flow and promote healthy cholesterol levels. Rigorous activity increases these benefits and offers a few additional benefits of its own. Older adults and those with existing health conditions should ask their doctors before embarking on a vigorous activity plan.
Rigorous activity is any form of exercise that increases your heart rate to between 70 percent and 85 percent of your maximum. An easy formula -- subtracting your age from the number 220 -- is used to estimate your maximum heart rate. Then multiply that number by the percentage you'd like to work at. For example, if you are 32 years old, your maximum is 188 beats per minute and engaging in activity at 80 percent of your max capacity puts you at 150 beats per minute. This would be your target heart rate for rigorous activity.
Physical activity at any intensity provides health benefits. However, compared to moderate activity, rigorous activity triggers beneficial physiological adaptation. For example, rigorous weight training triggers the production of lean muscle mass. A sustained elevated heart rate, such as is accomplished with endurance training, exerts cardiovascular benefits. The heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood through the body, which results in a decreased resting heart rate. Rigorous activity also improves your body's oxygen capacity.
To gain benefits, initially aim for at least 75 minutes of rigorous activity per week, according to the 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans. For additional health benefits, gradually increase to 300 minutes per week This is equivalent to one hour of rigorous physical activity five days a week. Engage in activity that involves all major muscle groups at least two of those days. Running on a treadmill is an example of this.
It is safest to work your way up to a strenuous activity level, especially if you're new to physical activity. Start slowly and increase the intensity as you build endurance. Use care when exercising strenuously in hot weather, which can cause you to overheat. Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated and replace any water lost through sweating.