New Exercise Guidelines Released: More Strength and Intensity Training

Nov 3, 2009 | fitness

Editors Note: This post is written by our elite performance specialist Andrew Verdon. Andrew has completed a Diploma in Exercise Science, Certificate IV in Fitness, Level 1 Strength Coaching Qualifications with ASCA. He is currently completing a Post Grad Diploma in Applied Science (Elite Sports Training) and will go on to do a Masters in Recovery.

The well known “30 minutes a day” exercise guidelines were released back in 1995. These guidelines have recently been updated and new guidelines for physical activity  were released by the ACSM.

The ACSM is the American College of Sports Medicine. It is the peak body for sports medicine in the world and is the  largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world with more than 20,000 members.

The new guidelines for health adults under 65 years are:

  • The basic recommendations are:
  • Do 30 mins 5 days a week of  MODERATE intensity cardio or
  • Do 20 minutes a day of VIGOROUS intensity cardio, and
  • Complete STRENGTH training twice per week

Quite an update- and keep in mind these are the minimum  levels recommended for an average adult to  maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease. If your goal is weight loss then they expand these basic levels out to 60-90 minutes of activity per day.


Moderate intensityy– this is hard enough to raise a sweat and increase your hear rate but you can still talk. As a guide your hear rate would be 100-130 bpm

Vigorous intensity –  this is an intense cardio session. Your hear 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.

Changes to the 1995 guidelines:

  1. Moderate intensity exercise has been clarified to set a recommended minimum- ie 5 days per week.
  2. Vigorous exercise has been specifically incorporated as crucial
  3. The light  daily activities of routine life are not intense enough
  4. More is better- the fact is emphasized 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.
  5. Strength training is now included and recommended to be completed twice per week as a minimum.

Tips to meet these guidelines:

  • Short bouts – You can accumulate 30 mins in short bouts
  • Mix it up – combine moderate and vigorous intensity into the one cardio session. Eg you can walk and jog together in one session or walk and climb hills or stairs to increase  the intensity
  • Get organized – Set a schedule to set aside a specific day and time to exercise each week.
  • A gym is not a necessity– all they suggest 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.
  • Variety – 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.”

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 – very few people are not aware of the health benefits of regular activity BUT these new recommendations define clearly WHAT  and 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.

How many people do you know who meet the minimum requirements?




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