By Nancy Dohn
GAINESVILLE, Fla.---Fitting aerobic exercise and weight training into busy schedules may have just gotten easier. Updated national exercise guidelines released by the American College of Sports Medicine Wednesday (June 3) in Orlando show breaking up aerobic exercise into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day can be just as effective as one 30-minute session.
In addition, performing one set of weight lifting exercises (eight to 12 repetitions) will build the same muscle endurance and strength as doing multiple sets, said University of Florida exercise physiologist Michael L. Pollock.
New to the national guidelines, last updated in 1990, is the recommendation to perform weekly stretches to increase muscle and tendon flexibility, which reduces potential injury and maintains function as people age, Pollock said.
"The first guidelines established in 1978 looked mainly at the importance of cardiovascular exercise. In 1990, strength training exercises were added as part of an overall fitness program," Pollock said.
"These current guidelines include flexibility exercises and modifications to aerobic and weight training based on current research that will help the average person adhere to a fitness program."
Pollock has served as chair of this ACSM-sponsored group since the first guidelines were announced 20 years ago. The committee is made up of a select group of professionals representing a wide range of exercise expertise. The national guidelines are updated every 10 to 12 years based on the committee's review of published scientific research.
Formerly, the guidelines recommended 20 to 60 consecutive minutes of aerobic activity three to five days per week. This included a broad range of activities such as walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, jogging and aerobic dance.
"The literature review now shows that you can break up aerobic exercise into shorter sessions repeated throughout the day and achieve the same benefits as if you've done one consecutive session. This is very helpful for adherence to a fitness program because the No.1 reason people drop out of an exercise program is because of lack of time, " Pollock said.
Also helpful to adherence is the recommendation that one repetition of weight exercises two to three times a week will achieve the same benefits as performing multiple sets. This is a suggested exercise approach for an average person interested in building muscle strength and endurance but who is not interested in becoming a bodybuilder.
"There is more research to support this statement now than there was in 1990, when it was first recommended. Eight to 12 exercises of one set each hitting the major muscle groups in the upper and lower body can be done in 20 minutes---it's a very efficient program," Pollock said.
Increasing muscle and tendon flexibility is new to the national exercise guidelines to maintain range of motion and function throughout life. For example, the guidelines recommend doing static stretches held 10 to 30 seconds to the point of mild discomfort, repeating them four times per muscle group, 2 to 3 days per week.
"We're also trying to create a well-rounded, streamlined exercise guidelines that help show people what is needed and that provides advice on how to customize an exercise program to fit individual needs while achieving maximum benefits," Pollock said.
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