“One day we’ll get to exercise like medicine,” said Jason Gifford, a BYU exercise science professor and senior author of the study. “To prescribe medication, you need to get predictable results for each dose of medication. We’ve found that the same applies to exercise.”
Research suggests that when exercise is individualized based on “vital strength,” results show greater improvements in endurance and greater long-term benefits for the individual. The authors define vitality as the highest level of our comfort zone. “This is the level at which we can perform for a long time before things become uncomfortable,” said study lead author Jessica Collins, a former BYU graduate student.
It works something like this: Let’s say two friends have the same max heart rate. Previous understanding of the exercise suggests that if they run at the same speed together, they must have very similar experiences. However, it happens that when these two friends run at 6 mph, the exercise is easy for one, but difficult for the other. These specific experiences at the same speed and at the same percentage of maximum heart rate are because 6 mph is below one friend’s vital force, but above the other’s vital force.
When exercise falls short of a person’s vital strength, their body can compensate for the energy challenge and reach a comfortable and controlled homeostasis. However, when exercise is above one’s vital strength, their body cannot fully compensate for the energy demand, resulting in exhaustion.
Traditionally, individual exercise regimens are based on their recommended maximum rate of oxygen consumption (VO2 max) or a certain percentage of their maximum heart rate. Collins and Gifford state that using “vital strength” is a better way to determine exercise because it not only serves athletes and people in great shape, but it also serves those who are older. or lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
“Research like this helps every kind of person, no matter how active they are currently,” Collins said.
For the study, Collins, Gifford and co-authors recruited 22 participants between the ages of 18-35 who were healthy but displayed low fitness levels. Participants underwent eight weeks of supervised exercise training where they were randomly assigned to either high-intensity bike training or moderate-intensity continuous bike training. Exercises were traditionally prescribed based on a person’s maximum heart rate, or VO2 max.
critical power vs heart rate
The researchers found that prescribing exercises based on VO2 max as a reference point resulted in alarming variability in outcomes. There were participants who benefited significantly from the training period and others who did not, even though the training was personal to them. They compared this to each individual’s vital power and found that it accounted for 60% of the variability in their findings. If exercise was determined using their heart rate versus vital power as a reference point, the results would be less different, meaning the training session would have been more effective and beneficial for each participant.
Collins said, “One of the biggest reasons people don’t exercise as much as they should is because they’ve tried something in the past, and it didn’t work out the way they were expecting. ” “The great thing about basing exercises on vital strength is that we can almost always guarantee results, which allows us to help people achieve their fitness goals.”
How can we calculate Critical Power?
To calculate a person’s vital power, researchers had participants complete multiple distances of exercise (i.e. running, biking) as quickly as possible. They then took the average speed and inserted that data into a proprietary formula that quantifies the relationship between exercise distance and exercise time to produce a significant power number. They found that a person’s vital power can increase substantially with exercise training, making things less challenging, less uncomfortable and less tiring.
“Exercise is so good for you that you’ll see some benefit no matter what you do,” Gifford said. “This research simply informs people that they can completely customize their exercise, so they can get the most out of it. We are excited when it will be possible for people to learn their personal vital power in the near future. becomes more accessible.”