A Healthy You: How much exercise do you need?

By Cindy Gates

So How Much Exercise Do We Really Need?

We all know that we need to eat more fruits and vegetables and to be physically active to help with weight management and to prevent different diseases. But sometimes it’s the doing it, is the difficult part.

Recently we said goodbye to the food guide pyramid and now we have My Plate which encourages us to fill ½ our plate with fruits and vegetables. Just recently, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released new exercise guidelines.

The 2011 guidelines seem similar to the 1998 version but with just a few adjustments and clarifications. Like the previous guidelines, the new standards offer time and intensity recommendations for cardiorespiratory, resistance and flexibility exercises. But the update guidelines also outline recommendations for neuromotor exercises (sometimes called functional fitness training) which focuses on improving and maintaining motor skills like balance, coordination, gait and agility.

According to ACSM, neuromotor exercise can be especially beneficial to older people to improve balance and muscle strength , reducing the risk of falls and other injuries. Examples of activities are yoga and tai chi.

The 2011 guidelines also 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.

Cardiorespiratory Exercise:

  • Adults should exercise 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
  • 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.
  • Two to four sets of each exercise will help improve power and strength
  • For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise program and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance
  • Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions

Flexibility Exercises:

  • 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 to two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch
  • Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobics to warm the muscles before stretching Neuromotor Exercises: • Neuromotor exercise is recommended for two or three days per week
  • 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise The ACSM also has developed guidelines on exercise for cancer patients and survivors.

The most important message is to avoid inactivity. The benefits for cancer patients and survivors are to help prevent fatigue, improve body and influence quality of life. The ACSM recommends that cancer patients and survivors should exercise 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five days a week. With all exercise programs, the patient should consult a physician.

Healthy You is a regular column about nutrition, healthy living and cancer care. It is written by Cindy Gates, RD and LD and the Cancer Center’s Oncology dietitian, herbalist and Certified Wellness Coach.

Post by Robin McGinty

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