June 18, 2024

New ACSM Guidelines for Exercise Prescription, released July 2011 by Barbara Bushman, Ph.D., FACSM

What components make up a complete exercise program? The American College of Sports Medicine released an update on the quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults. The recommended components include the following:

Cardiorespiratory (aerobic) exercise. Three to five or more days per week depending on intensity. More specifically, this guideline includes continuous, rhythmic exercise using large muscle groups (e.g., brisk walking, running, biking, swimming, racquet sports, or team sports like soccer).  Target 150 minutes per week for moderate intensity activity (e.g., a walking program) or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity activity (e.g., running) or consider a mix of moderate and vigorous.

Resistance exercise. Two to three days per week. For example, free weights, weight machines, resistance bands/cords as well as body weight exercises like pushups and curl-ups. For those starting out, 10-15 repetitions will be effective. Once established, 8-12 repetitions per set are recommended to improve strength and power. One set is a good starting point with a target of 2-4 sets, including exercises for all the major muscle groups. 

Flexibility exercise. Two to three days per week, or even daily. Various methods can be used including static stretching (end position is held at the point of feeling tightness), dynamic stretching (slow movement stretching), ballistic stretching (faster movements, bouncing stretching, more typical in sport environments), and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (contract-relax stretching). Total stretching time per muscle-tendon unit should be 60 seconds (e.g., static stretching held 15 seconds for a given position would be repeated 4 times).

Neuromotor exercise training. Two to three days per week or more. Exercises involving balance, agility, coordination, and gait fall into this category for older individuals. Other younger and middle-age adults may also benefit. Multifaceted activities like tai chi and yoga are also potential ways to improve functional fitness.

For the complete ACSM Position Stand see http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx
Examples of exercises and progressive programs can be found in ACSM’s Complete Guide to Fitness & Health (Human Kinetics, 2011, http://www.humankinetics.com/products/all-products/acsms-complete-guide-to-fitness–health). 

For more health and fitness related tips, join Dr. Bushman’s Facebook page for ACSM’s Complete Guide to Fitness & Health http://www.facebook.com/FitnessID to discover, develop, evolve, and personalize your FITNESS ID.   Dr. Bushman also is the lead author of ACSM’s Action Plan for Menopause (Human Kinetics, 2005, http://www.humankinetics.com/products/all-products/action-plan-for-menopause) and is the incoming author of the “Wouldn’t You Like to Know” column in the ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal. She is a Professor at Missouri State University and is ACSM certified as a Program Director, Clinical Exercise Specialist, Health Fitness Specialist, and Personal Trainer.


  1. Afshin says:

    Hi guys

    I just bought the guide to fitness and health, I am not if the information I am looking for is in the book but I cannot find it. I understand that there is a minimum recommended exercise regimen.

    However I am not sure if this minimum recommendation is on top of some established level of activity or based on being totally sedentary.

    For example I walk a few miles in the hospital going on rounds. How can I know if I am not going to be overdoing my exercise. Should I use a pedometer or some other objective way.

    For example I went on a 5 hour hill walk that was at an intense level. Does this mean I have done the max and any more will mean the point of diminishing returns or point of doing harm ?

    Thank you for your time

    Dr Afshin

    • hywo says:

      Thank you for your comments. The recommendations are the level of total activity based on sedentary lifestyles, a minimum to be completed. If you have pain or long term fatigue that is the feedback of overdoing your exercise. A pedometer is a useful tool to count steps, and therefore makes it easier to regulate activity. Congratulations on keeping fit!

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