The New Exercise Guidelines

Every few years the major health and exercise organizations go through the latest fitness-related research to determine whether current exercise guidelines and position statements are accurate.

The American College of Sports Medicine, one of the premier exercise and fitness organizations in the country, recently decided that it was time to give their 2008 position stand an overhaul. What resulted was a more comprehensive, full-health position stand on the quantity and quality of exercise needed for healthy adults.

The Guidelines

The nice thing about the latest set of guidelines from the ACSM is that while not much has changed regarding their stand on cardiovascular and resistance exercise, they've added information on flexibility training and neuromotor exercise (functional fitness or balance training).

Also, their guidelines are much more comprehensive, taking a lot of the guesswork out of the types of training adults should be performing. Check out this summary, or view the ACSM website for details.

Cardiorespiratory Exercise

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.
  • If adults choose to perform moderate-intensity exercise, it should be obtained five days a week for 30 to 60 minutes a day.
  • If adults choose to perform vigorous-intensity exercise, it should be obtained three days a week for 20 to 60 minutes a day.
  • It doesn't matter whether exercise is obtained through a single long session or multiple shorter sessions each day.
  • Gradual progression of frequency, intensity and time is suggested for adherence and lower injury risk.
  • If you can't meet the minimum requirement, some activity is better than no activity.

Resistance Exercise

  • Every major muscle group should be trained two or three days a week with a variety of exercises and equipment.
  • Older or sedentary individuals should start with light or very light intensity.
  • To improve strength and power, two to four sets of each exercise is recommended
  • Eight to 12 repetitions will improve strength and power.
  • 10 to 15 repetitions will improve strength in middle-age or older persons just starting a program.
  • 15 to 20 repetitions will improve muscular endurance.
  • Adults should rest 48 hours between resistance training sessions.


  • Adults should engage in flexibility training two to three days each week.
  • Each stretch should be held for 10 to 30 seconds to a point that's tight or slightly uncomfortable.
  • Repeat each stretch two to four times - the equivalent of 60 seconds stretching per exercise.
  • All types of stretching are effective (static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF).
  • Flexibility training is most effective when the muscle is warm.
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