How effective is the Talk Test?

Workout talk test

For many years, the talk test has been used as a means of measuring aerobic intensity. Many fitness experts question the effectiveness and accuracy of the test. The talk proposes that if you can carry on a light conversation, then you are in a good range of intensity for fat burning and cardio results. Proponents of the talk test believe you should speak clearly and slowly, and if you have discomfort or your speech is broken, then you are working too hard.

Arguments against the Talk Test

Those who do not believe in the talk test say it fails to account for variations between people as well the different types of exercise they are doing to try to achieve their target heart rate (THR). Everyone is a little different and has different levels of cardio ability.

If you were to look at the control panel of the treadmill, for example you will see the option to attain your current heart rate. Once the result is displayed you will then you have an idea how you can adjust your workout, according to the chart to attain the best level of intensity. Doctors and trainers all have theories on how intensely you should choose to work out.

Arguments for the Talk Test

According to researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine, if you can speak in a comfortable manner during exercise, then you are probably working out at the proper intensity level. In order to determine whether you are exercising at the intensity level appropriate for you, a self-administered test is required. You may discover that you are exercising at the level best for you or that you may need to slow it down a bit.

Measuring Your Target Rate against the Talk Test

Those of us who have been to a gym in last 10 years may have elected to use the heart rate monitor device on the treadmill. This simple task allows you to grip the silver handles while exercising and have your current heart rate displayed. While you await the results, you think to yourself, “I can hardly breathe, I must be doing great.”  In fact, if you are struggling to breathe or speak then you are working at a vigorous versus moderate level and should slow down.

True, your target heart rate (THR), when cross referenced with the standard cardio/fat burning chart may look like you are achieving your best workout level for your cardio or fat burning goals, but the key is to remain able to breathe properly. The target heart rate (THR) method is based on estimated range and the formula may not fit everyone. Being able to judge for yourself by using the talk test method can assure you a safe and comfortable workout. Our exercise calculations article has a target heart rate calculator as well as a number of other exercise performance measuring techniques you may be interested in.

Time Tested

Since 1939, the talk test has been unofficially recognized. Professor John Grayson, at Oxford University, advised English mountaineers to “climb no faster than you can talk.” This was the first and most basic of attempts to measure the talk test. The idea was kicked around for many years and remained on the fringe of exercise philosophy. In an era of rapid expansion with technology, the talk test never really gained any notoriety or respect.

In 1991, the talk test was included in the fourth edition of the “guidelines for exercise and training,” at ACSM (American College of Sports medicine.) In 1997, the talk test was once again recognized and published by the American Council on Exercise. However, the talk test still didn’t receive the recognition or respectability in new and upcoming exercise methods.

The talk test is confirmed and widely accepted as an accurate test, taken at any time during your workout, to ensure you are at your best and healthiest heart rate. If you are able to walk, jog or use weights, and continue to speak comfortably then you are on the road to a successful and healthy workout.