How Often Should a Person Exercise According to the ACSM?

By Andrea Cespedes

With 45,000 members representing 90 countries, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the largest sports and fitness organization in the world. ACSM certifies professionals in the fitness industry and promotes the advancement of exercise science and sports medicine through scientific research. In 2011, ACSM released new guidelines for exercise frequency, which include recommendations for cardiovascular, resistance, flexibility and neuromotor training.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise, or aerobic exercise, is movement that uses the large muscle groups to raise the heart rate for an extended period of time. ACSM recommendations converge with those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommending that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Exercising more can afford you greater health benefits. You can do 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking five times per week or 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, such as running, three times per week. You can achieve these amounts through one long session or multiple shorter sessions that last at least 10 minutes.

Resistance Training

Resistance training, also known as strength training, uses body weight, free weights, tubing or weight machines to build muscle. ACSM recommends adults target each major muscle group two or three times per week. You should leave at least 48 hours before training the same muscle group again to allow for recovery and repair. The structure of your resistance-training sessions depends on your goals and fitness level. Less fit individuals and the elderly should aim for one set of strength moves at a light intensity, while people who want to improve strength and power should aim for two to four sets of each exercise.


Flexibility training consists of static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching -- a clinical stretching technique. ACSM says to do some type of flexibility training at least two or three days per week to maintain and enhance range of motion. You should hold stretches 10 to 30 seconds and repeat up to four times to make a total of at least 60 seconds per stretch. Stretching is best after a light warm-up, when the muscles are warm and not as vulnerable to injury.

Neuromotor Exercise

Neuromotor exercise is better known by the term "functional fitness." This type of exercise includes balance, coordination and agility training, such as standing on a balance disk, tossing a medicine ball or following a set stepping pattern. Yoga and tai chi fall under this category. ACSM recommends doing neuromotor training two to three times per week for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

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