The well known “30 minutes a day” exercise guidelines, released back in 1995, have recently been updated by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and you might find some interesting advice and techniques for your training/exercise program.
The new ‘basic recommendation’ guidelines for healthy adults under 65 years are:
Do 30 mins 5 days a week of MODERATE intensity cardio
Or Do 20 mins 3 days a week of VIGOROUS intensity cardio
And Complete STRENGTH training twice per week.
Quite an update, keeping in mind these are the minimum levels recommended for an average adult to maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.
NOTE: If your goal is weight loss then expand these basic levels out to 60-90 minutes of activity per day.
So let’s look at some definitions:
MODERATE INTENSITY - this is hard enough to raise a sweat and increase your heart rate but you can still talk. As a guide your heart rate would be 100-130 bpm
VIGOROUS INTENSITY - this is an intense cardio session. Your heart rate would be higher than a moderate session and you could NOT hold a conversation. As a general guide your heart rate would be 140 bpm plus.
STRENGTH TRAINING - the ACSM defines as 8-10 different exercises with 8-12 repetitions completed of each.
These new recommendations are improved in five areas:
Moderate intensity exercise has been clarified to set a recommended minimum- ie 5 days per week.
Vigorous exercise has been specifically incorporated as crucial
The light daily activities of routine life are not intense enough
More is better- the fact is emphasised that these are the minimum levels. Exceeding the minimum levels further reduces the risk of chronic disease and improves health. There is a clear dose – response relationship.
Strength training is now included and recommended to be completed twice per week as a minimum.
As an exercise coach I am happy to see the levels of intensity be specified very clearly as well as the introduction of a strength training recommendation. I believe most people live their lives in 1st or 2nd gear to use a car analogy. You need to get your engine into 3rd, 4th or 5th gear occasionally too. Your body uses different energy systems and different chemical processes at different intensities and all should be used across a week.
I am very strict with all my clients to get some strength training in their week. I have seen some great results from strength training on a variety of clients from teenagers to several clients in their 70’s and 80’s. Strength is crucial at all stages of life. It leads to good posture, stability and independence as we age as well as stimulate healthy lean body mass and tissue for many positive health benefits.
So what does this mean for the average person?
Most people I consult with or talk to are active – vey few people are not aware of the health benefits of regular activity, BUT these new recommendations define clearly WHAT as well as HOW OFTEN we should be active. The minimum is 5 days per week up from 3 days and the type and intensity of the activity have also been specified. What will surprise some people who go for a brisk half hour walk three times per week is they are NOT meeting the MINIMUM levels of exercise.
Practical Tips – How To Fit Into A Busy Routine:
The ACSM released these guidelines with a statement on tips to help meet them each day and week.
You can accumulate 30 mins in short bouts of 5 minutes or more.
Mix it up – combine moderate and vigorous intensity into the one cardio session. E.g. you can walk and jog together in one session or walk and climb hills or stairs to increase the intensity
Set a schedule to set aside a specific day and time to exercise each week.
A gym is not a necessity- all you need is a good quality pair of shoes, a plan, some guidance and motivation!
Get the whole family involved- parents, spouse, kids and friends can all make good exercise partners and increase adherence and motivation
Higher intensity physical activity can be accumulated through a variety of activities- do not fall into the trap of thinking you have to run to get your heart rate up. Think outside the trap of the boring “I have to go for a jog”… consider skipping. I believe this to be one of the most under-utilised and underrated exercises. Try 1 min on 1 min off for 10 minutes- a great but brief workout.