Expert-Recommended Exercises for Healthy Adults

Alex Benitez, Life Extension Health Advisor

According to the National Center for Health Statistics1, lack of exercise, poor diet, and smoking are the leading causes of heart disease in the United States. Now, this probably isn’t all that surprising to you. But here’s the question: What are you going to do about it?

Not surprisingly, many people simply don’t know where to start when it comes to initiating an exercise regimen. Here are some of the fundamental exercise questions that we field on a daily basis:

  • What kind of exercise is the best?
  • How long do I have to exercise for?
  • How many days per week do I need to exercise?
Since the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently released new recommended exercise guidelines, we figured this would be a great way to cover some of the basics with our readers. They’ve outlined the quantity and types of exercises that should be done on a weekly basis for healthy adults in each category. Below we’ll go over their recommendations.

Exercise Category #1 — Cardiorespiratory Exercises

Raising your heart rate and breathing rate when exercising constitutes cardiorespiratory exercise. The ACSM recommends that all adults get at least 150 minutes of cardiorespiratory exercise per week. There are two ideal ways to achieve this goal:

  1. Exercise for 30–60 minutes 5 days per week at 70% of your maximum heart rate, which is considered moderate-intensity exercise. (Maximum heart rate = [200-age] x .7)
  2. Exercise for 20–30 minutes 3 days per week at 80% of your maximum heart rate, which is considered high-intensity exercise.
One continuous session or multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes each) are both acceptable to accumulate your desired amount of daily exercise. However, a gradual progression of exercise time, frequency, and intensity is recommended for best adherence and for the least risk of injury.

Now maybe you cannot exercise at a moderate or high level – if so, that’s okay. Remember, any amount of exercise is a good thing. For example, experts agree across the board that walking for 45 minutes every day is good for your heart, brain and overall outlook.

Here are some examples of cardiorespiratory exercises:

  • Elliptical Trainer (easy on the knees)
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Water Aerobics
  • Spinning, Dance and Aerobic Classes

Exercise Category #2 — Resistance Exercises

Resistance exercises are all about toning major muscle groups. Adults should try to exercise each major muscle group two or three days a week using a variety of exercises and equipment.

Very light or light intensity is best for older people or previously sedentary adults who are just starting to exercise. Typically, two to four sets of each exercise will help you improve your strength and power. Here are the major muscle groups to focus on:

  1. Biceps
  2. Triceps
  3. Shoulders
  4. Chest
  5. Stomach
  6. Legs
Resistance exercises use relatively light weights and a high number of repetitions. For instance, 20 repetitions in 3 sets is a great way to improve muscle tone and endurance. Adults should typically wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions to rest and recover.

Another option worth considering is resistance bands. These offer safe resistance throughout a full range of motion, they’re relatively inexpensive, and they can be used just about anywhere. The Sports Injury Clinic has a great page that demonstrates the different exercises that can be done using resistance bands if you’re looking for inspiration.

Exercise Category #3 — Flexibility Exercises

The ACSM also recommends that adults should also do flexibility exercises at least two or three days a week to improve their range of motion. Each stretch should be held for 10–30 seconds, to the point of tightness or slight discomfort, but not to the point of pain.

Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating about 60 seconds per stretch. Note that flexibility exercises are most effective when your muscles are warm. Light aerobic activity or a hot bath both work well for warming up your muscles before stretching.

Exercise Category #4 — Neuromotor Exercises

Neuromotor exercise (sometimes called “functional fitness training”) is recommended for two or three days per week. Exercises should involve motor skills like balance, agility, coordination and gait. Examples of this sort of exercise would be tai chi and yoga.

These types of exercise are excellent to improve physical function and can even help prevent falls in older adults. Typically, 20–30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise.

Today is the Day to Get Started

Starting an exercise routine from scratch or changing your current routine can be a daunting task. But remember, moving your body and toning your muscles is arguably the greatest thing you can do to impact health and longevity.

Our best advice is to start slowly with walking and light resistance exercises. Eventually, you can graduate to more moderate aerobic exercises like jogging, elliptical trainers or swimming and increase the number of reps with each resistance exercise. Soon you will be ready for yoga and spinning classes, which can be quite intense.

Here’s our point — get moving! Inside, outside, with friends or alone, the key thing is to just start exercising today. Don’t make it a job. Find a way to enjoy it! Do this, and you’ll reap the benefits for many years to come.




Kickboxing Workout said...

What is more fun is that, Kids can even enjoy the act of doing some healthy movements huh. :)

David@forearm exercises said...

This is an excellent article on the four major categories of exercises. Most sites just post on one of the categories, such as strength or cardio exercises. Neuromotor is rarely mentioned, but is critical for us as we get older.

Knee Replacement Surgery said...

I think the resistance exercises are good in-order to increase strength. I am looking forward to start up this. Thank you for sharing the article.

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