Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Muscle Up! The Updated Physical Activity Guidelines

Muscle up and pump iron!

Muscle strengthening or strength training is now officially recommended in the updated physical activity guidelines released by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Heart Association (AHA).

Research shows that regular physical activities reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, some types of cancer (colon, breast, prostate, lung), anxiety, depression and a host of other health problems.

These guidelines outline exercise recommendations for healthy adults and older adults and are an update from the 1995 guidelines.

Read the full updated guidelines here >>

Learn more about weight training and workout routines to gain strength and build muscle >>

Learn more about effective high intensity cardio interval training (H.I.I.T.) to lose fat faster >>


Guidelines for healthy adults under age 65

Basic recommendations from ACSM and AHA:

Do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week


Do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week


Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.

Moderate-intensity physical activity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. It should be noted that to lose weight or maintain weight loss, 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary. The 30-minute recommendation is for the average healthy adult to maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.

Guidelines for adults over age 65
(or adults 50-64 with chronic conditions, such as arthritis)

Basic recommendations from ACSM and AHA:

Do moderately intense aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week


Do vigorously intense aerobic exercise 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week


Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, 10-15 repetitions of each exercise twice to three times per week


If you are at risk of falling, perform balance exercises


Have a physical activity plan.

Both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity is critical for healthy aging. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise means working hard at about a level-six intensity on a scale of 10. You should still be able to carry on a conversation during exercise.

Older adults or adults with chronic conditions should develop an activity plan with a health professional to manage risks and take therapeutic needs into account. This will maximize the benefits of physical activity and ensure your safety.



The document also provides useful information and tips as to how to meet the exercise recommendations and how to start an exercise program.

Eight improvements over 1995 guidelines were made and clarifed in details.

One updated guideline also spells out that "more is better." It emphasizes the importanct fact that physical activity above the recommended minimum amount provides even greater health benefits. To prevent unhealthy weight gain, attain or maintain weight loss, some adults will need to do more than 30 minutes a day.

In addition, the updated guidelines specified the so called "moderate" or "vigorous" intensity physical activities and 10-minute short bouts of exercise.

Short bouts of "low" intensity activity, such as grocery shopping, taking out the trash or casual walking a few minutes in the office or parking lot, DO NOT count.

However, certain daily activities of moderate to vigorous intensity nature, such as brisk walking to work, yardwork/gardening, performed in bouts of 10 minutes or longer can be counted towards the recommendations.

The key is that the intensity of activitiy has to be at a minimum RPE level of 4 to 5 to keep your heart rate up at a sustained duration of 10 minutes or longer.

So after-dinner walking around your neighborhood by youself or with your family is a great idea to wind down for the day and to get some family time. To reap health benefit, the walking pace has to be at least at 3.5 miles per hour or two miles in about 35 minutes to meet the recommendation for aerobic exercise.

You don't have to go the gym to get the daily recommended physical activities. There are many different physical activities and exercises you can do in the gym and outdoors. My earlier article on cross training provides a variety of fitness program, sports and activities you can do all year round.

You can also choose your physical activities, exercise or workout by your personality. Exercise program compliance and consistency is the #1 challege to health and fitness success. You want to pick the activities that you're motivated to do and love to do without being told.

For variety and effectiveness, you can mix up the intensity of cardiovascular exercise in the same session or in different workouts. I have elaborated the high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) method as an effective and efficient cardiovascular training protocol for losing fat and preserving muscle.

You don't necessary have to go to gym or have a home gym to perform muscle strength training. For many beginners or seniors, bodyweight-based exercise or functional training are more than sufficient. As you get stronger, you may want to join a gym or build a home gym so that you can have more equipment options. There are so many weight training systems and workout routines available. It's wise to hire a personal trainer to show you how to lift weights properly and custom-design a training program for you.

Take-away Message

The message is loud and clear: do as much as you can do to prevent yourself from becoming disabled!

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