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Exercise Column

ACSM exercise guidelines

When prescribing exercise overload - frequency, duration, and intensity, most qualified professionals use the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines as a starting point.

The ACSM's position stands and their Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (7th ed. 2006) set recommendations based on the latest research in the fields of exercise and fitness.

While excellent for general fitness, the guidelines are not meant to be used for optimal conditioning. High levels of fitness require more specific workouts to stress the systems utilized in each sport and to maximize the adaptations necessary for performance.

The guidelines are however an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to begin an exercise program. Of course, prior to starting it is best to consult your physician. The three main areas of focus and the guidelines include:

For musculoskeletal conditioning the ACSM recommends performing one set of 8 to 12 repetitions for each muscle group of the body two to three days per week.

For cardiovascular conditioning the ACSM recommends training at an intensity of 55/65 - 90% of HRmax (or 40/50 - 85% HRR or VO2max) for 20 to 60 minutes three to five days per week. More, if not most, days per week if weight loss is desired.

Finally, for flexibility the ACSM recommends stretching muscle groups or joints throughout the body 2 to 3 days per week, and preferably 5 to 7 days per week, and to hold each stretch for 15 - 30 seconds. For optimal flexibility they recommend repeating each stretch 2 to 4 times each.

The above guidelines are for achieving minimal fitness / conditioning goals. Once you achieve the levels of activity prescribed above you can decide if you want to increase the level for added fitness gains or maintain the level to assure continued health and fitness.

Written by Dr. Eric Sternlicht for on 3.24.06