Gradual progression involves continuing to parse the cardiorespiratory (aerobic) section of ACSM guidelines from the Position Statement, the next two points read:
- One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise. Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk.
- People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.
Exercise Session Flexibility With Either/Or And Both
On some days, you may have the time to exercise continuously at moderate intensity for up to sixty minutes. Shorter bouts are definitely “acceptable”, according to the guidelines, on the days when time is more constraining. Those 10 minute increments are valuable time segments and, with minimal planning, you can squeeze a little extra activity into those moments. Some suggestions, for example, beyond the usual take the stairs-use the farthest bathroom-park far from the door:
- if you have access to a parking garage, walk up and down the ramps during breaks and lunch
- take stairs two at a time
- walk during one-on-one meetings
- speed walk inclines, wherever you find them
- skip, gallop, and race walk between driveways during walks in your neighborhood
- take advantage of playscape equipment in parks
Another example of time structuring: Perhaps you are out in the morning and evening, briskly walking your dog for about 20 minutes each time, a total of 40 minutes. On the way home from work, you run a couple of errands and walking to the store from your car or the bus or train stop takes a few minutes. During the time you shop, you notice you are walking continuously, and on the way back to your method of transportation you are carrying one or two bags of groceries or other items. You check your watch and discover you have added another several minutes of activity to your 40 minutes of walking the dog and meet this guideline easily.
Emphasis on “Gradual” Fitness Progression With the FIT Factors
The focus is on “gradual progression” which includes “time, frequency, and intensity”. It’s easy to remember these three variables with the acronym FIT:
- Frequency – how often you exercise
- Intensity – how challenging your exercise is
- Time – how many minutes you exercise each session and during a week
Blend the FIT factors with cardiorespiratory options as you customize exercise to fit your needs and lifestyle. You can do a lot of mix and match as you explore ways to be active. During the week, include one or two more intense aerobic sessions of shorter duration with 3-5 longer, less intense sessions.
Take away: Variety is the spice of life, Including Exercise!
There is not one “right” way to exercise! The guidelines provide ranges of frequency, intensity, and time. If your RPE is vigorous, in the 7-8 range, then decrease the amount of time you exercise at that intensity. Conversely, if your RPE is in the 5-6 range, you can exercise up to 60 minutes daily and include shorter periods of activity. Switch thing up to keep your activity fresh and interesting.