Exactly what do you mean by moderate?

Comments (5)
By Peter Hadzipetros

You've seen them – those lean and lanky, fit people who credit their ability to maintain that look to eating moderate amounts of a well-balanced diet combined with a moderate amount of exercise.

They're the people who can eat a few bites of the yummiest dishes and say they've had enough. It's a trick I've yet to learn.

I like to run marathons, so moderation is something that doesn't come naturally to me. I put in a lot of kilometres in training – last week, almost 110. That's good and bad. I'm burning a lot of calories, but also developing a substantial appetite.

Think Michael Phelps – the diet, not the bong.

That doesn't do much good if you want to lose weight. You take in as much as you burn and your weight won't budge. You're also courting dietary disaster if you cut your activity but remain – as my father used to say – "a good eater."

A lot of the folks noted as experts in the fields of diet, nutrition, exercise and how the body works say we should emulate those mostly lean and lanky people and combine a moderate diet (a little over 2,000 calories for the average woman and a little over 2,500 calories for the average man) with moderate amounts of exercise – about 30 minutes, five times a week.

But what do they mean by "moderate exercise?"

Researchers at the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences of San Diego State University, think they have the answer: 3,000 steps over 30 minutes, five times a week.

That breaks down to 100 steps a minute, which may sound like quite the pace. While it's no leisurely stroll, it won't win you a medal in the 100-metre sprint. Think walking quickly to get to a meeting.

Nobody's going to go around counting steps for half an hour. However, lead researcher Simon J. Marshall says you can do it with a pedometer and a watch. Pedometers are pretty accurate when it comes to counting steps, but they won't measure the intensity of your workout. Count your steps for a couple of minutes, and you'll get a pretty good idea of your pace.

After half an hour of this – if you're not totally out of shape - you'll feel like you've had a workout. Not exhausted, but moderately tired.

Marshall notes that half an hour at a time may sound daunting to a lot of people. His advice: break it up. Your body benefits from workouts as short as 10 minutes. So instead of looking at this mountain of 3,000 steps, you'd get the same benefit by doing 1,000 steps in 10 minutes, three times a day – on level terrain.

It's a small change that – over time - can yield more than moderate results.

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Comments (5)

Monette Comeau

Athletes have different dietary requirements than those who, for example, exert light efforts of physical activity every day. Light activities might include walking, gardening, lifting groceries, climbing stairs etc (60 minutes per day is generally recommended).

Once the range gets into higher intensity and longer endurance type exercise, it's important to balance the energy output with energy intake, and to keep hydrated.

According to

"Athletes sweat at different rates (anywhere from under 500 mL an hour to over 2 L per hour. It is important that you drink enough during and after exercise to replace the fluid you lost in sweat."

"Approximately 30 – 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour (such as in the form of a sports drink) can improve exercise performance."

After exercise
"Once your activity is finished, your body is ready to store energy again, repair muscles and fill up with fluids. After exercise, start with a shake (blend milk, fruit and ice together), sport drink, chocolate milk or water. Soon after exercise choose a meal or snack rich in carbs and protein."


Remember that restrictive diets are not generally recommended for high level athletes as they need more energy to maintain their activity levels. It's always best to check with a health professional such as a dietitian or physician if you have any questions regarding your healthy, your eating habits and overall well-being.

Dietetic Intern
Halifax, NS

Posted April 20, 2009 02:49 PM

Colin Doyle

After reading about the 3000-step/30 minute excercise plan, I timed myself on my evening walk and was pleasantly surprised to find that I basically walk at that pace now. Now, I'm by no means in tip-top shape yet, but that evening walk (usually about 50 minutes) has made a big difference. Perhaps beginners should try - as I did – walking with a pedometer at their own pace, then gradually work towards the 100 stp/min goal. If you can't walk with a friend, wear an iPod – you'll be surprised at how fast the time flies.

Posted March 23, 2009 09:02 PM

Lady K


I just found your blog and will be back for more. I too am a marathon runner so moderate doesn't always figure into my running routine.
Looking forward to reading more...time to check out your archives.

Posted March 23, 2009 07:37 PM



Thank you for the information, but please consider those people who are not "average". 3,000 steps may be more than daunting for some, it may be impossible, but those are the ones who need exercise the most and can benefit from alternatives. For example, people who are over weight and under fit can do severe damage to their joints, muscles, tendons and heart if they try this regimen at the outset. Most know this and therefore do not exercise at all. If they are informed about alternatives like swimming and cycling then there is a chance that they can become fit enough to follow your regimen for maintenance. To ensure that their exertion stays in the "moderate" range may require the advice of their doctors and the use of a heart rate monitor. Their eventual goal is to achieve and maintain the level you describe. Let's not assume everyone can start at that level, nor ignore the ones who cannot. Those at a superior level of fitness need no advice from me.

Posted March 23, 2009 12:24 PM

bicycle enthusiast


I'm one of those lean lanky people you talk about. I too exercise and eat moderately, eating very few animal products and fat and lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

But for exercise, very few lean people are carrying around a pedometer. I think exercise has to be an enjoyable activity or it won't be done. It should be incorporated into daily life and with a purpose, such as doing errands on foot or by bike. Walking a dog is a good one as well.

Having said that, for those who can't seem to incorporate exercise in their daily lives, your suggestion seems like a good moderate way to measure exercise each day.

Posted March 22, 2009 10:19 PM

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About the Author

Peter HadzipetrosPeter Hadzipetros is a producer for the Consumer and Health sites of CBC News Online. Until he got off the couch and got into long distance running a few years ago, he was a net importer of calories.

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