The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have released their 2007 recommendations for physical activity. These guidelines have been revised since the last update in 1995. Their goal is to help people live more active and healthy lives.

The basic guidelines for healthy adults age 65 and younger are: Do moderate-intensity aerobic activities 30 minutes a day, five days a week, OR do vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 20 minutes a day, three days a week. Also, the new recommendations encourage doing 812 repetitions of eight to 10 strength training exercises twice a week. The 30-minute guideline is only for those with a goal of reducing the risk for chronic diseases. If weight loss is the goal, 60 to 90 minutes of activity may be necessary.

The previous recommendations stated “most days of the week” for activity, but the new guidelines clearly define the recommended number of days per week. Strength and muscle training activities have been added to the recommendation, as well. Intensity is also better defined. Moderate intensity means that you are breaking a sweat and increasing your heart rate, but can still carry on a conversation during activity, though it is more difficult. Vigorous activity raises your heart rate higher and makes carrying on a conversation pretty difficult.

You can mix the moderate intensity and vigorous intensity activities on different days of the week. The activity can also be done in shorter bouts, but no less than 10 minutes per bout. Choose activities you enjoy, and get family members or friends involved. If you have any underlying health conditions, consult with a physician before beginning an exercise program.

The guidelines for those over age 65 vary somewhat. The aerobic activity recommendations are the same for both age groups. The strength training guideline is to do eight to 10 strength training exercises, 1015 repetitions, two to three times per week. Also, if adults are at risk of falling, they should perform balance activities and use a health professional to make a physical activity plan. Functional health (the ease with which normal daily activities such as grocery shopping or gardening can be done) and strength training are very important components of an activity program for older adults. Stretching and flexibility is also a much-needed component, and can usually be done on strength training days.

Start slow and build up to the recommended durations and intensities. Everyone reacts differently to physical activity, so it’s important to listen to your body. Include days of rest to let your body recover and recuperate. Remember to participate in activities you enjoy, and have fun!