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University Health Services

Exercise Guidelines For Healthy Adults

Running figure

The leading excuse for not exercising that we hear from students is a lack of time.  This is a very lame excuse.  Students need only to move improved fitness up on their list of priorities in order to find time to exercise.  Additionally, new guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine indicate that less aerobic and weight training is needed to maintain fitness than was formerly recommended.

The American College of Sports Medicine defines fitness as the life long ability to perform moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity without undue fatigue.  A measure of your aerobic fitness is your VO2 max.  Improvement in VO2 max is directly related to the frequency and duration of training.  An indirect way of testing ones VO2 max is to measure heart rate.  When exercise is performed at around 60% of your maximum heart rate, one can see a 30 – 40 percent improvement in VO2 max.  This is significant.  It means that exercising for a longer duration at low intensity will produce the same improvement as exercising for less time at higher intensity, if the total number of calories expended is the same or similar.  Improvement is achieved if the exercise is intermittent or continuous.  So, exercising once for 30 minutes or 3 times for 10 minutes produces roughly the same benefit.

One should exercise three days a week to maximize improvement.  Students who exercise more than 5 days per week have no improved fitness for the added extra days of exercise.  Cross training is best to target the various major muscle groups.  High impact activities are not wise for beginners because of injury risk.

Because muscle strength declines as one ages, it is important to perform some resistance training in addition to the aerobic exercise for a healthy lifestyle.  Strength training that uses lighter weight and a greater number of repetitions builds endurance while those featuring heavier weights and fewer repetitions build strength.  For most students who are not interested in bodybuilding, the strength gains achieved by performing additional sets or lifting heavier weights are not appreciable.  Additionally, a heavier weight imposes a greater risk of injury.

Finally, in addition to aerobic training and weight training, it is important to maintain ones flexibility with a stretching regime.  This regime should target the major muscle groups.

Please discuss the specifics of a personal program with your primary care physician or a physician at University Health Services.  Strongly consider taking a new attitude.  Give improved fitness a higher priority in your life.  Begin each day by reminding yourself that you have decided to “Exercise for the Health of It”.