One of the most common questions I get is, how much should I be doing? Well the answer is not always that simple. Exercise programs should be modified according to an individual's habitual activity, physical function, health status, exercise responses, and stated goals. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a program of regular exercise that includes cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor exercise training beyond activities of daily living to improve and maintain physical fitness and health is essential for most adults. The ACSM recommends that most adults engage in moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise training for ≥30 minutes per day on ≥5 days per week for a total of ≥150 days per week, vigorous-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise training for ≥20 minutes per day on ≥3 days per week (HIIT), or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise. On 2-3 days per week, adults should also perform resistance exercises for each of the major muscle groups, and neuromotor exercise involving balance, agility, and coordination. Crucial to maintaining joint range of movement, flexibility exercises should be performed at least 2 days of the week.
Personally, I believe that 45-60 minutes per day, about 4-6 days per week is appropriate for overall health, mental health, and weight loss/maintenance. The ACSM has published new physical activity recommendations in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Overweight and obese individuals are more likely to lose weight and keep it off if they exercise for least 250 minutes (4+ hours) per week. Exercising for more than 250 minutes per week has resulted in significant weight loss for these individuals. Of course, these workouts can be spread out throughout the day, in that one could do a 30 minute strength routine in the morning, and a 15 minute stretching/yoga routine in the morning. With the amount of time many of us sit at desks or in front of computers and other electronic devices, getting up and doing little 15 minute workouts here and there throughout the day is actually just as good, if not better, than doing a one hour workout during the day and then just sitting for the rest of the day. I am not saying that it is necessary to go out and do a second workout, but even just moving around at our desk, taking the stairs, parking far away from the entrance to the grocery store, is enough to make a difference. The idea is to just move throughout the day, and to be conscious of our movement, or lack thereof.
I am huge into HIIT workouts, which include plyometrics, bodyweight, strength, and cardio. It is a very high intensity workout that can be performed in about 15-30 minutes, so when I am short on time, I always put together a little HIIT workout to do. It is amazing how much the heart rate can increase in 15-20 minutes. HIIT training is so popular because it can easily be modified for people of ALL fitness levels, and can be performed on all exercise modes. HIIT workouts provide similar benefits as continuous endurance workouts, but in shorter periods of time, as HIIT workouts tend to burn more calories than traditional workouts, especially post-workout. HIIT training has been show to improve:
- Aerobic & Anaerobic Fitness
- Blood Pressure
- Cardiovascular Health
- Insulin Sensitivity
- Cholesterol Profiles
- Abdominal Fat & Body Weight While Maintaining Muscle
So, what exactly does this look like? I have put together a chart to try and make some sense of all of this. Of course, if you are training for a marathon (half/full/ultra), half/ironman, cycling/mountain biking race, bodybuilding event, Cross-Fit competition, or any other athletic performance event, this exercise schedule will not apply to you. This is for overall basic health, including weight loss, and it just helps put in to perspective how much exercise we should be doing weekly. Also, make sure you are doing the exercise that you enjoy!! Of course, as I mentioned, 45-60 minutes per day, and 4-6 days per week is the recommendation based on my professional opinion and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Cardio: 3-5 days/week
HIIT: 2-3 days/week
Strength: 2-3 days/week
Flexibility: 2-3 days/week
Sample Weekly Exercise Schedule:
Monday: 45 Min Cardio & 15 Min Strength
Tuesday: 15 Min HIIT, 15 Min Strength, & 30 Min Flexibility
Wednesday: 30 Min Cardio & 30 Min Strength
Thursday: 15 Min HIIT, 15 Min Strength, & 30 Min Flexibility
Friday: 45 Min Cardio & 15 Min Strength
Saturday: Cardio or Rest
American College of Sports Medicine. (2011). Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise. Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx
American College of Sports Medicine. (2014). High-Intensity Interval Training. Retrieved from http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf?sfvrsn=4
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