Creating an Exercise Plan This Summer
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published their second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This comprehensive publication offers guidelines for children, adolescents, adults (including women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, as well as adults with chronic health conditions and adults with disabilities), and older adults.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to focus on the recommendations for adults.
UW Recreation summarized the guidelines for us here:
- Move more, sit less.
- Some physical activity is better than none and some health benefits can be attained by doing any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
- For significant health benefits, adults should do at least:
- 150-300* minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, OR
- 75-150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, OR
- An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
- Ideally, aerobic activity is spread throughout the week.
- *Note: additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities can provide additional health benefits.
- Target all major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week.
- Perform muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity.
So there you have it—in a given week, at a minimum, you should be striving for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities. Now that you know the basic formula, you can start to write your own personal fitness plan. Here are some examples:
In a week, you could do…
- 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on 5 days and do muscle-strengthening activities the other two days.
- 50 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on 3 days, muscle-strengthening activities on 2 days, and rest the other 2 days.
- 25 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on 3 days, muscle-strengthening activities on 2 days, and rest the other 2 days.
Examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include:
- Brisk walking
- Recreational swimming
- Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour on level terrain
- Group fitness classes like water aerobics
- General yard work or home repair
Examples of vigorous-intensity physical activity include:
- Jogging or running
- Swimming laps
- Bicycling faster than 10 miles per hour
- Group fitness classes like kickboxing
- Heavy yard work like shoveling
More on muscle-strengthening activities:
- Includes resistance training and weight lifting (this includes body weight exercises like push-ups or rock climbing)
- Focus on the muscles of the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms
- Consider the following variables:
- Frequency – how often you do a muscle-strengthening activity, remember you’re aiming for 2 days per week
- Intensity – how much weight or force is used relative to how much a person is able to lift, ideally to the point at which it would be difficult to do another repetition.
- Sets/repetitions – one set of 8-12 repetitions of each exercise is effective; however, 2-3 sets may be more effective.
Before you launch into your new and improved fitness plan, consider the following safety recommendations:
- There are certain risks associated with physical activity, but you can be confident that some level of physical activity can be safe for almost everyone.
- Choose types of physical activity that are appropriate for your current fitness level and health goals.
- Increase physical activity gradually over time to meet the guidelines.
- Use appropriate gear and equipment, choose safe environments, follow rules and policies, and be sensible about when, where, and how to be active.
- Consult with a health care professional if you have chronic conditions or symptoms. Your health care professional can make recommendations about the types and amounts of physical activity that are appropriate for you.
So now that you know the basic guidelines and safety recommendations, have some examples of physical activities, and have an interactive tool to help you set goals and design a plan, you’re ready to go!
Check out The Whole U resources around being more active: