New ACSM Exercise Guidelines

Yesterday, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released the newest guidelines for quantity and quality of exercise. These guidelines are based upon current scientific literature. The entire report can be viewed here. That report is quite lengthy however, so below is the summary of the recommendations. The part that struck me as the most concerning for my own life is that meeting the guidelines for physical activity does not make up for sedentary behavior – which has been shown to be a health-risk in its own! This is problematic because in this country we typically DO lead sedentary lives. We drive to work. We sit at our desks. We stare at a computer screen. We sit and watch tv. Apparently getting exercise alone is not enough to make up for our sedentary actions outside the gym! With that in mind I want to refer back to my Pedometer Challenge and Pedometer Recap posts from earlier this month, where I used my pedometer to track my “non-workout steps” only. I challenge each of you to do the same. Besides your scheduled workouts, how active are you really?

New ACSM Exercise Guidelines:

The basic recommendations – categorized by cardiorespiratory exercise, resistance exercise, flexibility exercise and neuromotor exercise – are as follows:

Cardiorespiratory Exercise

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  • Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).  
  • One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.  
  • Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk.  
  • People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.

Resistance Exercise

  • Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment. 
  • Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise. 
  • Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power.
  • For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance. 
  • Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.


  • Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion. 
  • Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort. 
  • Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch. 
  • Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective. 
  • Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.

Neuromotor Exercise

  • Neuromotor exercise (sometimes called “functional fitness training”) is recommended for two or three days per week. 
  • Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifaceted activities (tai ji and yoga) to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults. 
  • 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise.

In addition to outlining basic recommendations and their scientific reasoning, the position stand also clarifies these new points:

  • Pedometers, step-counting devices used to measure physical activity, are not an accurate measure of exercise quality and should not be used as the sole measure of physical activity.
  • Though exercise protects against heart disease, it is still possible for active adults to develop heart problems. All adults must be able to recognize the warning signs of heart disease, and all health care providers should ask patients about these symptoms.
  • Sedentary behavior – sitting for long periods of time – is distinct from physical activity and has been shown to be a health risk in itself. Meeting the guidelines for physical activity does not make up for a sedentary lifestyle.

What do you think of the new recommendations? Are you meeting them each week? If so, how? If not, what small changes can you make to come closer to meeting them?


10 thoughts on “New ACSM Exercise Guidelines

  1. jay$$$$ says:

    Static stretching is not good before high intensity workouts or competition! ! It actually fatigues the muscles! !

    • Tanya says:


      You are correct that static stretching prior to some types of exercise may negatively effect performance. These recommendations from ACSM are general guidelines for most Americans, and are not specifically focused on the athletic population. They have taken in to account a wide range of scientific literature which shows increases in flexibility with various modes of stretching. The recommendation they are making is to include some form of stretching in to your weekly routine.

    • Tanya says:

      Excellent! Biking instead of driving is the way to go if possible. Good for our health and the environment….and our wallets too with how expensive gas is now! 🙂

    • Tanya says:

      Sometimes it’s hard to fit it all in! In my dream world I would be able to run and lift daily and bike, hike, and do yoga several times a week. Sadly, that is just not possible. Dang work and responsibilities!

  2. Sean says:

    I really like the addition of the neuromotor activities to the guidelines. These are a vital component to fitness that are often left out because they are not one of the big 5. I think this is a good way of illustrating the importance that neuromotor skills has in overall wellness, not just sport and athletics. While sport and athletic success hinges on highly tuned neuromotor abilities, quality of life as we age rely heavily on these skills to an even greater extent (in my opinion).

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