How Much Exercise We Really Need

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • I often hear people ask the question: How Much Exercise Do I Really Need? Or alternatively, they say: I Don't Have Time to Exercise. Also: What Kinds of Exercise Should I Be Doing?

    Here comes some specific advice and a reminder that the amount of exercise we can benefit from is not overwhelmingly tough to fit in. The American College of Sports Medicine has released new recommendations on how much exercise adults really do need. The guidelines address several different types of exercise: aerobic, resistance, flexibility and neuromotor, and reflect the current scientific evidence that most adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.

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    "The scientific evidence we reviewed is indisputable," Carol Ewing Garber, Ph.D., FAHA, FACSM, chair of the writing committee said in a statement. "When it comes to exercise, the benefits far outweigh the risks. A program of regular exercise - beyond activities of daily living - is essential for most adults."
    Here is the breakdown on what the ACSM recommends:
    Cardiovascular Exercise

    • Adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.
    • This can be accomplished as 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, five days each week, or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, three days each week.
    • Multiple shorter sessions of at least 10 minutes each is an acceptable option.
    • Gradual increases in exercise time, frequency and intensity are recommended for both sticking to the program and minimizing risk of injury.
    • Some activity is better than none.
    Resistance (Strength) Exercise
    • Each major muscle group should be targeted for resistance training two to three days each week.
    • A variety of exercises and equipment is recommended.
    • Very light or light intensity is recommended for the elderly or adults new to exercise.
    • Two to four sets of each exercise are recommended.
    • Wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.
    Flexibility Exercise
    • Flexibility or stretching exercises should be performed at least two or three days each week to work on range of motion.
    • Each stretch should be held for about 10-30 seconds.
    • Each stretch should be repeated two to four times.
    • Stretching is best done when muscle is warm. This can be accomplished by some light aerobic activity done before stretching.
    Neuromotor Exercise
    • Neuromotor exercise or "functional fitness training" is recommended at two or three days each week, 20-30 minutes each session.
    • These exercises should involve motor skills such as balance, agility, coordination and gait - one great example is yoga - which can improve physical function and also has been shown to help prevent falls in the elderly.

    The ACSM also noted that sitting for long periods of time, even if one fits exercise in, is distinct from physical activity and is - in itself - a health risk.
    "It is no longer enough to consider whether an individual engages in adequate amounts of weekly exercise," said Garber in a statement. "We also need to determine how much time a person spends in sedentary pursuits, like watching television or working on a computer. Health-and-fitness professionals must be concerned with these activities as well."

  • For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn't mean better health.

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Published On: October 11, 2011

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