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Aerobic Exercise Guidelines
The aerobic exercise guidelines for health and fitness from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is to do 20-60 minutes of continuous vigorous activity (large muscle groups moving rhythmically) three to five times a week at 60%-90% of max heart rate. Examples are cycling, walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, rowing, and others. An important addition to these guidelines is the "lifestyle activity" guideline suggested by the Surgeon General in the 1996 government report "Physical Activity and Health." The recommendation in the report is to accumulate 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Accumulate means you can meet the guideline in two bouts of 15 minutes, three bouts of 10 minutes, or one bout of 30 minutes. The guideline is intended to make it easier for people to incorporate exercise into their activities of daily living instead of taking the time to do more formal workouts (like working out at the gym or jogging in the park).
Calculating Heart Rate Training Zone
Heart-rate training involves calculating a high and low heart rate and working out in between the two numbers to maximize fitness benefits. You can start your workout at the lower part of the range, and as you get fit, you can gradually increase the intensity. I recommend the heart-rate reserve method for calculating a target heart rate. Here's the formula. If you plug in other values, you can get other ranges.
Here's an example. Assuming a resting heart rate of 70 bpm, 27 years of age, and a 70% training range (60%-85% is the normal training range):
The Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE)
Another way to measure exercise intensity is to use the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion (RPE). It's a simple way to measure intensity, which cues you to listen to your body. To use it, select the number from the scale below that best describes your level of exertion. Ask yourself, How hard does the work feel? Pay attention to your overall level of fitness and then rank it. RPE #13 is equivalent to a heart rate of approximately 60%-75% of heart-rate reserve and where you can train to improve your fitness and health.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/20/2014
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