You’ve probably heard of the talk test. You might have even used it as a measure of your own fitness. The exercise talk test is simple: if you can work out and keep up a regular conversation at the same time, you are exercising at the correct intensity. This test has been used since the 1970s to guide people’s levels of effort on their way to healthier and fitter bodies.
But is it still useful or relevant today?
The short answer is, it depends. The original studies that tested the idea used unfit or sedentary subjects as volunteers. For unfit people, it’s likely that their heart rates will rise considerably while exercising. If they restrain their effort by using the talk test, they can prevent themselves from working too hard and causing injury or driving up their heart rates to unsafe levels.
People who already have a reasonable level of fitness will be able to push themselves much harder before losing the ability to speak. If they withhold their effort to ‘speaking’ level, they are likely doing themselves a disservice. Greater effort can be put in safely, and greater fitness gains can feasibly be achieved.
The lactate threshold
As lactic acid builds up in your muscles during a workout, you move toward your lactate threshold – the point where your muscles will simply stop working. When fit individuals were tested using the talk test, they became unable to speak at around the same time they neared their lactate threshold. This may serve as a jumping off point for further research and tracking of this physiological signpost.
Athletes need to push further
This next part may not come as a shock. If you are looking to improve your race times or extend yourself from a 5K to a 10K, you will need to exert more effort over time. It’s very likely that the levels of effort you’ll need to put in will be far beyond the boundaries of the talk test. Finding out more about your lactate threshold in partnership with a physiologist could be a place to start. At least, try putting your body out of its comfort zone once or twice during your weekly workouts – it’s the only way to see improvement toward your new goals.
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Whilst Enertor has over 18 years Orthotics experience, our blog content is provided for informational purposes only and it is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical advice. Enertor advises anyone with an injury to seek their own medical advice – and do not make any health or medical related decisions based solely on information found on this site.