October 8, 2008
Gain More, Exercise Less
Exercise harder for a shorter amount of time - that's one of the new recommendations from the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Instead of 30 minutes of aerobic activity five days a week, the new guidelines say exercise at a higher intensity for 20 minutes three times a week.
The reason? Better results.
These revisions are a step in the right direction.
First, 20 minutes of vigorous endurance exercise is more effective for cardiovascular fitness than 30 minutes of moderate endurance exercise, and is therefore well worth the extra effort.
Second, 20 minutes, three times a week, of physical activity is more manageable for most time-pressured people.
Quite simply, harder training sessions require longer recovery periods, thereby favoring every-other-day exercise.
While strength-training guidelines haven't changed - two to three nonconsecutive days a week - recent research findings may help you establish a more effective training frequency based on your exercise experience and effort. As your muscular fitness increases and you train more intensely, research reveals that you require more time for tissue repair and building processes to take place. Advanced exercisers who perform high-intensity strength training workouts need 72 hours to fully recover.
Consequently, hard strength training sessions should generally be scheduled twice a week or, at most, every third day.
More exercise is not necessarily better exercise, yet more exercise is typically difficult for many people to schedule. Properly performed exercise at the appropriate training intensity is the real key to physical fitness, and the new activity recommendations are excellent for achieving moderate to high levels of muscular and cardiovascular conditioning.
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, and author of several books including "Building Strength and Stamina" and "Strength Training Past 50."
Originally published by WAYNE WESTCOTT.
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