The New ACSM Exercise Guidelines: What RDs Should Know

By: Katie Murtha MS, RD

On June 28th, 2011 the American College of Sports Medicine issued new recommendations on the quality and quantity of exercise for adults. While there are many similarities, there are a few new recommendations. No matter in what area you currently practice, I’m sure many of you are often asked questions about exercise because it’s hard to separate nutrition from exercise. So here is a quick review of the 26-page document we all wish we had time to read. The recommendations are categorized by cardiorespiratory exercise, resistance exercise, flexibility exercise, and neuromotor exercise.

Cardiorespiratory Exercise

Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. This can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (at 70% of heart rate max) five days per week or 20-60 minutes of vigorous exercise (at 85% of heart rate max) three days per week. These sessions can be one continous session or in multiple (at least) 10-minute sessions. However, any exercise better than none!

Resistance Exercise

Adults should train each muscle group 2-3 days each week with at least 48 hrs between resistance sessions. Two to four sets of each exercise is recommended to increase strength and power. Number of repetitions performed depends on what a person’s goals are: 8-12 to improve strength and power, 15-20 to improve muscular endurance.

Flexibility Exercise

This category was new with the previous recommendations and continues into the new document. Flexibility exercises should be performed 2-3 days per week to improve range of motion. Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds (until the point of tightness). Repeat each stretch ~4 times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch. Muscles should only be stretched after they are warm!

Nueromotor Exercise

Exercises that involve motor skills (such as balance, agility, coordination, and gait) should be performed 20-30 minutes per day. Tai Ji and yoga are great activities for this.

Much of the above recommendations are not new. The following key points are now part of the guidelines:

  1. Pedometers do not accurately measure exercise quality and so should not be used as the only measure of activity.
  2. Because exercise alone does not guarantee the abscence of heart problems, all adults should be aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease.
  3. Sedentary behavior (defined as sitting for long periods of time) has been shown to be a health risk. Therefore, just meeting the guidelines for physical activity does not make up for a sedentary lifestyle.

Because sedentary individuals meeting the guidelines are no longer considered as healthy as we once thought, this is a great time to go back to the blog posted in March by Cassie Vanderwall, MS, RD, LDN, CPT entitled, “Get Fit While You Sit”. These are recommendations we all can keep in mind for the health of our clients and ourselves!

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