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All physical activities are not equal in health benefit

All physical activities are not equal in health benefit

The Canadian National Institute of Public Health released a report that offers international harmonization in five levels of intensity of the practice of physical activity.

The Canadian National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) is based on the scientific literature to suggest a distinction of exercise intensity values ​​on five levels: (1) low, (2) low, (3) average, (4) and high (5) high. This distinction allows to help professionals and practitioners to characterize the dose of physical activity (type of exercise, frequency, duration and intensity), especially in interventional studies.


The Report Rationale

The concepts of intensity, duration and frequency of physical activity are regularly used in practice and in research. If the frequency (number of weekly session, monthly or yearly) and duration (minutes per session) are readily understood, the concept of intensity may appear blurred. What does she? What unit of measurement used? Should we prefer a physiological indicator as an energy expenditure or a subjective scale of perceived exertion?

The Question

Can we have a table between metabolic cost and perception of effort that would harmonize how to quantify the intensity of physical exertion?

The Method

The National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) asked a group of experts on the question. The report was published in 2006 The findings are based on the recommendations of a scientific society, the American College of Sports Medicine and an international conference in 2000 on the dose-response.

Main conclusions

The National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) proposes to harmonize the intensity values ​​of effort based on Aerobic Power Reserve (PER) and the scale of perceived exertion (EPE). Five levels of intensity of physical activity were obtained: very low (PAR <20%, EPE <10 “very very light to very light”), low (20-39% PAR =, EPE = 10-11 “fairly light”), medium (PAR = 40-59%, EPE 12-13 = “somewhat difficult”), high (60-84% PAR =, EPE = 14-16 “difficult”), very high (PAR ≥ 85%, EPE = 17-19 “very difficult and very, very difficult”). PAR is the maximum aerobic power (MAP) minus the resting metabolism (1 MET). If, for example, an individual has a MAP of 10 METs, his PER is equal to 10 METs least 1 MET is 9 METs. This topic has 9 METs reserve or flexibility. A MET is a unit of measurement of intensity equivalent to the intensity “minimal” is: sitting at rest. It uses multiples of the minimum value (1 MET) for measuring the intensity of a physical effort. The EPA is a graduation of a perceived effort listed 6 (minimum or “very very light”) to 20 (maximum or “maximum”). The EPA is the result of the work of Borg. This distinction into five levels will help practitioners and researchers to specify the intensity of the effort of a subject and thus quantify the dose of physical activity intervention studies (type of exercise, frequency , duration and intensity). In other words, the researchers expect to physiological and psychological benefits depending on the intensity of the practice of physical activity. The intensity is supposed to appeal to different metabolic and psychological pathways. The practice can be adjusted based on gaps or pursuits improvement practitioners.


The General Message

Learn to distinguish five levels of effort is useful in a prevention or rehabilitation. Practice at a high level of effort (> 6 METs, PAR = 60-84%, EPE ≥ 15 “difficult”) is beneficial for health. That said, the regularity (and hence frequency) is even higher priority. The report also highlights that daily physical activity goes beyond the practice of a sport or a gym session. Housework, gardening, physical work, walking (…) must be included in the calculation of the dose of physical activity, in short any bodily movement that goes beyond a lying or sitting position at rest.

What it means for Healthcare Professionals

Teach practitioners to distinguish five levels of effort is useful in a prevention or rehabilitation. Practice at a high level of effort (> 6 METs, PAR = 60-84%, EPE ≥ 15 “difficult”) is beneficial for health. That said, the regularity (and hence frequency) is even higher priority. The report also highlights that daily physical activity goes beyond the practice of a sport or a gym workout. Housework, gardening, physical work, walking (…) must be included in the calculation of the dose of physical activity.

What it means for Researchers

A definition of the intensity of physical activity was proposed by the American College of Sports Medicine in 1998 The definition adopted by the international conference in 2000 on the dose-response (Kasaniemi et al., 2001) aims to standardize qualifiers associated with different levels of intensity. This distinction allows help researchers to quantify the dose of physical activity intervention studies (type of exercise, frequency, duration and intensity).

What it means for Policymakers

Distinguishing effort on five levels (very low, low, medium, high and very high) intensity values ​​to better understand this abstract concept. The definition adopted by an international conference in 2000 on the dose-response standardizes the qualifiers associated with different levels of intensity and help to characterize the dose of physical activity in research as in clinical practice.


The reference

Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec (2006). Intensité de pratique d’activité physique. Définitions et commentaires. Montréal : INSPQ.


To reference this Blog en Sante © article.

Ninot G (2014). All physical activities are not equal in health benefit. Blog en Sante, A14.

© Copyright 2014 Grégory Ninot. All rights reserved.

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