Evidence-based physical activity recommendations: Part 1

There are countless sources of misinformation out there in regards to physical activity. What are the current recommendations?

It appears that every week there is a new workout fad that has overtaken the fitness industry. Although, new workout programs may sound exciting and adventurous, what does the research say? This article is the first in a series that will go over the current exercise recommendations. In this article, I will summarize what the current recommendations are for adults over the age of 18. In later articles, I will summarize recommendations by goal and type of activity according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

You may be wondering, how much physical activity do I need per week and what types do I need to perform to receive health benefits? In a summary report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services titled “The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans”, it outlines that adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. Another option is a combination of both. To further increase health benefits, increase the amount of moderate-intensity aerobic to 300 minutes and vigorous aerobic exercise to 150 minutes. 

Aerobic exercise that is considered moderate-intensity are activities in which one is exercising hard enough to elevate their heart rate and begin sweating but are still able to hold a conversation. Examples of these activities include walking fast or riding a bike at a sensible pace. On the other hand, activity that is considered vigorous-intensity are those in which you breathe hard and fast, and your heart rate has increased a lot. You should have difficulty carrying on a conversation. Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include sprinting, jogging, or riding your bike at a fast pace or up hills.

 In addition to the aerobic exercise recommendations, muscle strengthening activities should be performed on two or more days per week. Activities considered muscle strengthening include lifting weights, using one’s bodyweight or resistance bands, or heavy gardening. Muscle-strengthening exercises should be performed for at least 1 set of 8 to 12 repetitions for the major muscles groups including legs, back, hips, chest abdomen, shoulders, and arms. To further increase the health benefits from muscle strengthening, perform at least 2 to 3 sets per exercise.

In summary, there are numerous media sources out there of “new” workout programs, however, there are evidence-based physical activity recommendations. Overall, it is important to avoid inactivity and slowly work up to recommendations if you currently are not meeting them. In the next article, I will summarize the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s resistance training guidelines. 

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