What are the Important ACSM Guidelines for Exercise

What are the Important ACSM Guidelines for Exercise?

What are the Important ACSM Guidelines for Exercise

As one of the oldest organizations in its field, the American College of Sports Medicine is one of the most trusted sources to promote and integrate the newest findings related to sports medicine and exercise. From personal training certification to the values associated with the ACSM Foundation, the public can and does rely on ACSM to provide accurate recommendations for their personal health and fitness goals. You do not have to be a personal trainer or even a fitness professional to benefit from the ACSM’s recommendations. Here are the important ACSM guidelines for exercise, why they are important, and how you can make sure you are incorporating them into your lifestyle, whether at home, in the gym, or anywhere in between.


Why Is Exercise Important?

It is a known fact that physical is important to a well-rounded lifestyle for everyone. While the best practices of exercise may change over time with new discoveries and methods, the benefits of exercise remain the same. Regular physical activity and/or exercise are beneficial to mental health and physical health, no matter who you are. The important ACSM guidelines for exercise have many perks, including:


Improvement in Cardiovascular and Respiratory Function

  • Increases your exercises threshold in case of the onset of disease/symptoms of disease
  • Increased capillary density in skeletal muscle 
  • Increase blood circulation
  • Helps lower blood pressure


Reduction in Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

  • Reduces total body fat
  • Reduces insulin needs and improved glucose tolerance
  • Improves cholesterol 
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces resting systolic/diastolic pressure


Other Benefits

  • Improves mental health, decreases anxiety and depression
  • Supports cognitive function
  • Improves and enhances physical function
  • Improves performance in other physical activities such as sports and walking
  • Serves as a source of therapy when healing from an injury
  • Improves balance and reduces the risk of falls and injuries due to falls

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How Much Exercise Do Adults Need?

Depending on your personal lifestyle, your doctor or personal trainer may have their own recommendations. You might have also heard that 150 – 180 minutes of exercise a week is what you should strive for. However, ACSM has specific suggestions to go by.


According to ACSM, all healthy adults aged 18 – 65 should participate in the following:

  • 30 minutes minimum of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, five days a week
  • 20 minutes minimum of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, three days a week


Combinations of both moderate and vigorous aerobic activity can be used to meet this recommendation. It should also be noted that it is very important to incorporate exercises that maintain and/or increase muscular strength and endurance!


What Kind of Exercise Do Adults Need?

Both high-intensity workouts and strength training for core and muscle strength are vital for adults. This can be achieved in the gym or at home – but it is important to be mindful of reaching both goals. The types of exercises to include in your weekly workouts are:


Cardiorespiratory Exercise

Aerobic and high-intensity workouts that get your heart racing and make you break a sweat. Aerobic means “relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen.” This refers to the use of oxygen adequately meeting the demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism. Hop to it! (Literally – jumping rope is one of the greatest aerobic exercises you can perform for heart health).


Flexibility Exercise

Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two days a week to strengthen muscles and improve range of motion. Hold each stretch for 10 – 30 seconds, until you “feel the stretch” or resistance. Make sure to repeat this 2 – 4 times to help achieve flexibility goals. Exercises like yoga help not only with physical fitness but can improve mental health as well.


Resistance Exercise

It is recommended that every adult train each major muscle group between two and three days per week. You can do resistance exercises using a variety of activities and tools like hand weights, medicine balls or resistance bands. The recommended level of intensity for these exercises will vary from person to person, but each person should shoot for anywhere between 8 and 20 repetitions per exercise to help improve their strength, power and endurance.


Neurometer Exercise

You might know neuromotor exercise better as “functional fitness training,” which includes tai chi and yoga. Neurometer exercises are beneficial in that they increase balance, agility and other motor skills, which can help with other kinds of training in return.

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Exercises Outside of the Gym

It may be intimidating to go to the gym for a number of reasons, whether it’s time constraints or a lack of motivation in general. But even if you don’t find yourself at a physical fitness facility on a regular basis, there are lots of ways to get in some exercise at home, at the park or within your neighborhood. Both recreational activities and household chores can play a big role in your physical health!

If you are looking to incorporate fun and games into your physical activity, you are in luck, as ACSM considers the following recreational activities as best practices for cardio:


Light/Very Light Physical Activity for Recreation

  • Walking slowly around home or neighborhood
  • Arts and crafts, games and cards
  • Billiards/darts
  • Croquet
  • Fishing
  • Playing musical instruments


Moderate Physical Activity for Recreation

  • Walking at a brisk pace around home or neighborhood
  • Badminton
  • Basketball (shooting hoops)
  • Slow dancing, such as ballroom dancing
  • Golf
  • Table tennis
  • Noncompetitive volleyball


Vigorous Physical Activity for Recreation

  • Walking at a very brisk pace, jogging or running
  • Hiking at a steep grade
  • Hiking with a heavy pack
  • Bicycling at stronger efforts
  • Casual or competitive basketball
  • Casual or competitive soccer
  • Competitive volleyball
  • Swimming laps
  • Skiing cross-country

Cleaning your home is great for your living environment, and as it turns out, for your physical health as well! ACSM considers the following household chores as ways to get in your cardio:


Light/Very Light Physical Activity at Home

  • Walking slowly around your home or office
  • Making the bed
  • Washing dishes
  • Ironing
  • Preparing food


Moderate Physical Activity at Home

  • Washing windows
  • Washing the car
  • Cleaning the garage
  • Sweeping, vacuuming or mopping
  • Home carpentry/stacking or carrying wood
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Gardening
  • Vigorous Physical Activity at Home:
  • Walking at a brisk pace around home or office
  • Shoveling sand, coal, etc.
  • Carrying heavy loads such as bricks, etc.
  • Heavy farming such as bailing hay


Quality vs Quantity in Exercise

While there is definitely a recommended number of minutes and times per week for exercise, please note that performing them correctly is a must. For example, if you include 50 pushups in your Friday morning workout, but they are not performed correctly, it can affect the quality of your physical activity overall.

Not only can you risk impacting your workouts negatively — if certain exercises are done too fast, too slowly, or incorrectly, it can lead to strained muscles and bad habits, both of which can have long-lasting effects that you probably do not want to encounter.

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Further ACSM Guidelines for Exercise

In addition to the guidelines for physical health, ACSM has also pointed out some key things to remember when keeping track of workouts:


Pedometer Use

Are you using a pedometer to track your steps or fitness goals? While the numbers you see can motivate you, it is important to remember that this should not be your sole measure of physical activity, as pedometers are not accurate when it comes to giving a read on the overall quality of your exercise.


Heart Problems

Recognize the signs of problems and disease. Exercises like the ones listed above can help protect against heart disease, but there are many contributing factors when it comes to developing such problems that both patients and healthcare providers should still be aware of and ready to discuss.


Sedentary Lifestyle

Note that meeting just these guidelines for physical activity does not make up for a sedentary lifestyle.


How ACSM Guidelines Help with Special Needs

The important ACSM guidelines for exercise we’ve listed above are a great thing to note for everyone, as they are beneficial to physical health and mental health. They are also extremely important to note for those with special needs, and those who are trained to assist those with special needs in exercising. 

We mentioned that some of the recommended exercises may be modified, or recommended based on health professionals and personal trainers, depending on personal health. This is also true for those with autism, down syndrome and other disabilities.  trainers with these capabilities

Those certified in CDME training at Special Strong understand why modifying some exercises is important, while still being able to reach fitness goals. Trainers are experts in effectively using the following areas of training:

  • Core, balance and flexibility
  • Brain and sensory system
  • Strength and muscle development
  • Endurance and stamina adaptation

If you are a personal trainer, know a personal trainer or are interested in learning more about the program and becoming certified with Special Strong, you can sign up here


Strong Education teaches personal trainers and service providers on how to adapt fitness and nutrition for children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities through our online adaptive special needs certification course.

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