The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise spread over three to five days a week. Or do 75 minutes of vigorously intense aerobic exercise spread over three days a week. These minimum recommendations outlined in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans decrease your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Moderately Intense Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercises such as walking, running, cycling or step aerobics improve the function of your heart, lungs and blood vessels. These organs become more efficient at circulating oxygenated blood to your working muscles at rest and during exercise. Pick an exercise you enjoy and something that fits into your lifestyle. If you can talk, but you cannot sing while you exercise, you are maintaining moderate intensity. Moderately intense exercises can be done for longer durations compared with vigorously intense exercises. Do a 30-minute workout five days a week. If you are short on time, do 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon and 10 minutes in the evening. You will derive the same benefits when you do multiple bouts of exercise or complete your exercise in one session.
Vigorously Intense Aerobic Exercise
When you are exercising so hard that you are barely able to say a few words, you are exercising at a vigorous intensity. Vigorously intense exercise improves your aerobic fitness, increases your bone density and enhances your body's ability to break down stored body fat. Be sure to start conservatively and stay within your level of ability when exploring more intense aerobic exercises.
Weight Loss and Maintenance
If your goal is to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, the American College of Sports Medicine advises you must exercise for 60 to 90 minutes per day, five days a week. You may divide any workout session into smaller bouts. For example, do a 30-minute aerobic session in the morning, then a 30-minute aerobic session in the evening. Include both moderately intense and vigorously intense exercise in your weight loss or weight maintenance program.
While aerobic exercise is beneficial for most people, check with your doctor prior to engaging in an exercise program. Older adults with extensive osteoporosis are more prone to injury during exercise, which may increase their risk of fractures. Diabetics must be given specific instructions with regard to how long, how often and how intense their exercise should be. Women with abnormal pregnancies may not be able to continue with the same exercise program that they did before their pregnancy.
Aerobic/cardio exercise is only one aspect of physical fitness. A complete fitness and wellness regimen includes strength training and flexibility training to maintain a well-rounded exercise program. Consider adding these to your exercise program at least two days a week in addition to you cardio conditioning.
- ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal; MyActivity Pyramid for Adults; Stephen Ball; Nov/Dec 2009
- American College of Sports Medicine: Physical Activity and Public Health Guidelines