Q: I've seen so many competing exercise guidelines. How do I know which one is right?
A: The many exercise guidelines released by various organizations are confusing, but luckily, these groups have combined forces, so now there are just two main approaches to fitness -- just in time to squeeze them into your warm-weather workout plan.
The first approach, issued by the American College of Sports Medicine, recommends 20 to 60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity three to five times a week, at 60% to 90% of your maximum heart rate. The ACSM also recommends doing resistance training two to three days a week. One set of eight to 10 exercises for major muscle groups (eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise) is ideal.
The second approach, from the U.S. Surgeon General, recommends that you accumulate 30 minutes of "moderate intensity" physical activity (such as walking, vacuuming, climbing stairs, and yard work) on most days -- in two 15-minute bouts, three 10-minute bouts, or one 30-minute bout.
Of course, if you're interested in competitive sports, you need to work out harder. But if you are after health, fitness, and muscle tone, these recommendations are safe, sane, and effective. And undauntingly doable.
Richard Weil, MD, CDE, WebMD Fitness Expert