Cardiovascular Exercise Recommendations
Physical Activity/Exercise Guidelines
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Heart Association (AHA), and the US Department of Health and Human services released guidelines for physical activity/exercise in 2008. Before the guidelines are discussed the difference between physical activity and exercise must be clearly defined.
• Physical activity: any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle that increases energy expenditure above a basal (rest) level. This includes personal grooming/hygiene, feeding oneself, standing, walking from parking lot to entrance of building, family care, household chores, occupational requirements, gardening, and so on.
• Exercise: is structured physical activity specifically designed to improve one’s cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength/endurance, flexibility, and body composition (lean mass/fat mass).
• All exercise is physical activity but not all physical activity is exercise.
Most if not all days of the week (3-5 days/week) for at least thirty minutes per day. Moderate intensity level: Working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation (talk test).
METs: A metabolic equivalent or MET is a unit useful for describing the energy expenditure for a specific activity. A MET is the ratio of the rate of energy expended during an activity to the rate of energy expended at rest. Example: 1 MET is the rate of energy expenditure at rest, expressed as 3.5 ml/kg/min or 1 kcal/kg/h or 4.184 kj/kg/h. A 4 MET activity expends four times the energy used by the body at rest.
Two methods of assessing aerobic intensity:
1. Absolute Intensity (Overall guide)
Light: are defined as 1.1 to 2.9 METS
Moderate: are defined as 3.0 to 5.9 METS. Walking at 3.0 mph requires 3.3 METS of energy expenditure
Vigorous: are defined as > 6.0 METS. Running at 10 minute/mile pace is a 10 MET activity
2. Relative Intensity (Specific to individual): Intensity expressed in terms of percent of maximal heart rate, heart rate reserve or aerobic capacity reserve.
Moderate: 40-59% of aerobic capacity reserve (0% resting and 100% maximal) or a 5-6 on a scale of 0-10 (0=sitting, 10=maximal effort)
Vigorous: 60-84 % of aerobic reserve capacity or a 7-8 on a scale of 0-10
Four classifications of cardiovascular exercise:
Inactive: no activity beyond baseline activities of daily living.
Low Activity: <150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes (1.25 hours) of vigorous intensity exercise per week.
Medium Activity: 150-300 minutes (2.5-5 hours) of moderate intensity activity or 75-150 minutes (1.25-2.5 hours) of vigorous intensity exercise per week.
High Activity: > 300 minutes (> 5 hours/week) of moderate intensity exercise.
A good rule of thumb is that vigorous intensity exercise requires only 50% of the weekly duration (time) of moderate intensity exercise to obtain the same health benefits.
The greater the amount of regular exercise (moderate or vigorous) performed on a weekly basis the greater the health benefits. Examples below:
Lower risk for premature death (17-28 years)
Lower risk for coronary heart disease (CHD)
Lower risk of stroke
Lower risk for hypertension (High blood pressure)
Lower risk for dyslipidemia (High cholesterol)
Lower risk for Type 2 diabetes mellitus
Improvement in cognitive function
Reduction in the number of falls
Any activity where the body’s large muscles move in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time (i.e. brisk walking, running, cycling, jumping rope, swimming, and hiking).
Three components to consider when selecting an activity (FIT Principle):
Frequency: how often on a weekly basis is the exercise performed.
Intensity: how hard to work during the activity. Moderate = brisk walking, vigorous = jogging/running.
Time: how long (duration) each session should last (i.e. 10-60 minutes).
Greg Stanley, MS, CSCS, HFS