Purpose of review: This review focuses on recent literature examining the validity and reliability of the talk test for prescribing and monitoring exercise intensity. The utility of the talk test for high-intensity interval training and recently proposed exercise training guidelines for patients with atrial fibrillation is also examined.
Recent findings: In healthy adults and patients with cardiovascular disease, comfortable speech is likely possible (equivocal or last positive talk test stage) when exercise intensity is below the ventilatory or lactate threshold, and not likely possible (negative talk test stage) when exercise intensity exceeds the ventilatory or lactate threshold. The talk test can be used to produce exercise intensities (moderate-to-vigorous intensity, 40-80% (Equation is included in full-text article.)) within accepted Canadian Association of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation and American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for exercise training, to monitor exercise training for patients with atrial fibrillation, and help avoid exertional ischemia. The talk test has been shown to be consistent across various modes of exercise (i.e., walking, jogging, cycling, elliptical trainer and stair stepper). It may not be practical for high-intensity interval training.
Summary: The talk test is a valid, reliable, practical and inexpensive tool for prescribing and monitoring exercise intensity in competitive athletes, healthy active adults and patients with cardiovascular disease. Healthcare professionals should feel comfortable in advocating its use in a variety of clinical and health-promotion settings.