12 Thu

The Talk Test

The Talk Test

Written by: Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP, CGFI

Recently, I had a conversation with a patient about how hard she should be working out, what intensity should she shoot for?  We talked about her target heart rate and how she should be able to talk and have a normal conversation while she was running.  That made me remember a study out of the University of New Hampshire, their study stated that if you can talk during exercise, then you may not be exercising at an adequate intensity to improve your fitness level or endurance.

Researchers studied 15 healthy adults and had them run on a treadmill at increasing speeds while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  The researchers measured the subjects’ heart rate and oxygen consumption.  From this information, they could extrapolate if the subjects were approaching their physiological threshold for exercise.  This threshold is called the lactate threshold, which is when the amount of lactic acid builds up in your system to such an extent that you can no longer move your body.  It’s when your body’s production of lactic acid exceeds your body’s ability to clear it out of your system.  To increase your endurance and speed, the article goes on to state, an athlete needs to be exercising at a level just below the lactate threshold.

The problem came when the subjects were able to talk and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, they were only exercising at a moderate intensity, not anywhere close to their lactate threshold.  Previously, the American College of Sports Medicine had used the talk to test as a quick and easy way to make sure people were exercising safely and not over exerting themselves.  Previous studies had shown that the inability to talk during exercise indicated an intensity over the prescribed 60-85% of the maximum heart rate (moderate intensity).  However, these studies were done on sedentary or unfit subjects.

So what does this all mean to you?  If you are starting an exercise program, then a regular talk test may be a good idea to keep in mind.  But if you’re already in good shape, run marathons regularly, and hope to improve your speed and performance, then you should be working out at a higher intensity, to a point where talking is difficult.

Remember, for most people beginning a fitness program, moderate exercise intensity, 60-85% of maximum heart rate, is recommended.  Maximum heart rate (MHR) is calculated this way:  220 – (your age) = MHR.  This number can be affected by medications or other factors.  If you find that you reach your target heart rate range and you have difficulty talking, then let that be your guide.  Beginning an exercise program is a good step to improving your overall health, but do it carefully and be well-informed. Consult your physiotherapist for more information.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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