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ACSM Releases New Exercise Guidelines

In June, the American College of Sports Medicine released new exercise standards, updating the recommended quantities and types of weekly activity for adults. Time to get moving!

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Just a few weeks after saying goodbye to the food pyramid, Americans are getting an update on weekly exercise guidelines. In June, the American College of Sports Medicine released new exercise standards, updating the recommended quantities and types of weekly activity for adults. Time to get moving!

What's the deal?

While the 2011 standards seem similar to the 1998 version— the last time the guidelines received an update— the ACSM made a few important adjustments and clarifications [1]. Like previous guidelines, the new standards offer time and intensity recommendations for cardiorespiratory, resistance, and flexibility exercises. But the updated guidelines also outline recommendations for neuromotor exercise (sometimes called functional fitness training), which focuses on improving and maintaining motor skills like balance, coordination, gait, and agility [2]. According to the ACSM, neuromotor exercise can be especially beneficial for older people to improve balance and muscle strength, reducing the risk of falls and other injury [2]. In order to meet the neuromotor recommendations of two or three days a week, the ACSM suggests participating in activities like tai chi or yoga. Functional resistance movements involving a significant degree of balance and multiple muscle groups might also help fulfill the recommendations for neuromotor exercise.

In addition to emphasizing a new category of activity, the 2011 standards highlight a variety of ways to meet the recommended minimum 150 minutes of weekly exercise. For those with busy schedules, the new guidelines suggest exercising longer on days when more time is available, or breaking workouts into several 10-minute increments throughout the day [2]. Unfortunately, these updated guidelines make no mention of where Quidditch falls within a balanced weekly routine.

The Takeaway

To get the full list of recommendations, check out the summary from ACSM below:

Cardiorespiratory Exercise

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  • Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).  
  • One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.  
  • Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk.  
  • People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.

Resistance Exercise

  • Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment. 
  • Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise. 
  • Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power.
  • For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance. 
  • Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

Flexibility Exercise

  • Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion. 
  • Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort. 
  • Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch. 
  • Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective. 
  • Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.

Neuromotor Exercise

  • Neuromotor exercise (sometimes called “functional fitness training”) is recommended for two or three days per week. 
  • Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifaceted activities (tai ji and yoga) to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults. 
  • 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise.


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Works Cited +

  1. American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and flexibility in healthy adults. Pollock, M., Gaesser, G., Butcher, J. et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Jun;30(6):975-91
  2. Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise. Garber, C.E., Blissmer, B., Deschenes, M.R., et al. America College of Sports Medicine, Indianapolis, IN. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2011 July; 4(7): 1334 -1359.