health · Prudenfit

How much exercise do you need?

Okay, exercise is good for us and we should do it. Some exercise is better than none. But how much should we do for maximum benefit? And what kinds of exercise?

There are four general components of exercise. The familiar cardiorespiratory training and strength, but also felixiblity and neuromuscular training.

To help describe these, I refer to the FITT principles of training: Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular training involves easy-to-do, repetitive movements involving large muscle groups.

running, cycling, swimming, stepping, elliptical, many more.

Time and Frequency-
30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (150 minutes a week) of moderate intensity or
20 minutes a day, 3 days a week (60 minutes a week) of vigorous intensity

These numbers are the minimum recommendations. Ideally each bout would be one continuous session, but you can break it up into 10 minute chunks depending on your fitness level.

Moderate Intensity: 40-60% of Max Heart Rate
Vigorous Intensity: >60% MHR

Intensity is determined by a percentage of your maximum heart rate. How to: 220-your age=MHR. MHR x .6=your heart rate at 60% intensity. I will write a more detailed how-to post in the near future.

Resistance Exercise

Strength training, lifting weights, using resistance bands, using weight machines, performing bodyweight exercises.

Focus on major muscle groups ( chest, back, legs, abdomen, hips, shoulders), and multi-joint/compound exercises.

2-3 days a week; not training the same muscle group two days in a row

8-12 reps, 2-4 sets each exercise

“To improve muscular strength, mass,…endurance, a resistance exercise that allows a person to complete 8 to 12 repetitions per set…” (sourced below)

For each exercise, perform it 8-12 times. It should be at an intensity that the muscle is fatigued at the last rep, and you absolutely cannot perform another.
Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
Repeat 2-4 times.

*This is the general number given by ACSM! If you have specific endurance or power goals, your rep/set/rest ranges will be more specific, but likely dance around these numbers 🙂 *

General resistance training isn’t assigned a duration; it’s so variable it all depends on the numbers of exercises, sets, reps, and rest!

Flexibility Exercise

stretching; static, dynamic/ballistic, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).

Stretching is particularly important for athletes in sports where flexibility is a key part of the activity (gymnastic, dance), but is still beneficial for the general population. As long as one is warmed-up, extensive stretching isn’t really necessary before a workout. It’s better to stretch at the end of the workout.

Stretching for flexibility is moreso a dancer’s focus.

Stretching isn’t really a workout. It can even be relaxing! At the end of the stretch, you should feel a slight tug (“minimu discomfort”), but NOT pain.

A 10-minute session is recommended for most adults. For static stretching, hold each stretch for 15-60 seconds (a rep), and repeat 2-4 times (sets).

2-3 days a week, at minimum

Neuromuscular Exercise

(This is of particular importance for older adults, whose decresed balance and agility put them at an increased risk for falling.)

This type of exercises trains your balance and agility, so think: yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and dance.

2-3 days a week, at minimum

Intensity & Time-
Nothing specified. Much of the research for this type of exercise was done on older adults who fall a lot. While neuromuscular exercises may be beneficial for all healthy adults, research hasn’t gotten far enough to offer more specific guidelines.


If this seems overwhelming, do not be discouraged. There are many practical as well as creative ways to meet the recommendations for physical activity (For example, think about a HIIT workout, or a ballet-inspired group fitness class. In one session, multiple components are met.

These recommendations are for the general population. How an individual meets these if up to them and their resources, skills/abilities, time/schedule, energy/drive, and many other factors. That said, I think it’s wise for everyone to evaluate their current physical activity and seek to match up to these guidelines 🙂

For more information you can go to, where almost all this information is sourced from. For a program tailored to your needs & goals specifically, a personal trainer would be qualified to help you.

What do you think of these guidelines? Is anyone meeting these in creative ways?


To write this post I referred to ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. You can also check out this link. The American College of Sports Medicine is a recognized authority on the subjects of health as it relates to physical activity and exercise.

Consult your physician before beginning a fitness program.





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