The American College of Sports Medicine Recommendations
No, this isn’t a sales pitch on late night television! Even if you’re a young 50-something (or even younger), now is the time to start taking care of all aspects of your physical condition, not just ride your bike!
A recent study at Duke University determined that the physical decline in healthy adults typically begins earlier than detected by health professionals. In other words you may be starting down the slippery slope of aging before you even realize it! The study’s findings were published in the Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences and reported in USA Today.
For overall good health, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends:
1. Endurance exercises: You should do a minimum of 150 minutes / week of endurance exercise, increasing over time to 300 minutes / week.
2. Strength training: You should do strength training two to three days / week, which should include exercises for all major muscle groups (shoulders, arms, chest, core, hips, and legs). 30 minutes / session is plenty.
3. Stretching/flexibility exercises: You should stretch all parts of your body at least 4 times a week — it only takes 5 – 10 minutes per session.
4. Weight-bearing exercises: Riding – even sprinting – doesn’t load your skeleton as much as good old walking! Your week should include activities that are of moderate to high intensity in terms of bone-loading forces, for example, stair climbing; jogging, at least intermittently during walking; hiking with a pack; XC skiing; etc. Activities that involve jumping, such as volleyball and basketball, are particularly beneficial. Your strength training also helps to strengthen your bones.
5. Balance exercises: Some balance exercises strengthen leg muscles, while other exercises focus on stability. Your strength training should include the smaller muscles that control your legs when you move laterally – these muscles aren’t used riding a bike. Riding a bike is great for your balance, but not for general balance, as you can easily prove trying to stand on one leg.
The ACSM’s key point is that total body fitness is one component that supports a long, healthy and active life. Good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, how you avail yourself of medical care, and your genetics are the other components of staying fit for as long as possible.
Incorporate This Range Into Your Daily Life
Do you include all five of the above types of exercises in your weekly activities? This would take a lot of time, wouldn’t it? It doesn’t have to, though — you can incorporate much of these into your activities of daily living.
According to the ACSM, as little as 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise is beneficial — even commuting and running errands on your bike helps! You may not want to give up riding time to go jogging for strong bones — could you climb up and down the stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator? For balance, try standing on one leg while brushing your teeth.
As a roadie you probably exceed the ACSM’s recommendation for endurance exercise. If you want to improve your overall fitness, make a commitment to focus on the areas where you really need to improve. If you’re like me, you don’t spend much time on fitness activities that you don’t enjoy. I hate push-ups and planks!
Work on Only One Thing at a Time
To improve, pick just one item to work on for a month. For example, you want to improve your leg strength, but you don’t want to or don’t have time to go to the gym. And doing step-ups 2 or 3 days a week is about as exciting as riding the trainer.
You can do all of these exercises without going to the gym: front step-ups, lateral step-ups, wall squats, split squats, forward lunges and backward lunges. Varying the exercises is even better than just doing step-ups. The various exercises work your leg muscles in different ways, providing more overall leg strength.
These are all weight-bearing exercises and by adding weight you can load your leg bones more. If you have dumbbells, that’s great, but you can also use a backpack or holda couple of bags filled with canned goods. Each of these exercises also involves balance. One set of 10 to 15 reps of one exercise is sufficient to meet the ACSM’s recommendations. That’s just five minutes.
By consistently working on just one area for a month, you’ll see real progress and you’ll develop that as a habit.
Then Choose Another One, And So On
Then pick another of the five areas to improve. I have a little 10-minute routine that I do while drinking coffee and listening to the news:
- 1 set of push-ups
- Alternating the front plank, side plank and back plank on different days
- Stretches for both upper and lower body
I do push-ups and the plank, both of which I hate, first. Then I stretch to work out the kinks in my body that develop overnight. Just 10 minutes into my morning, I feel virtuous for having done my exercises – and I feel better physically.
I don’t force myself into a pattern, e.g., every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. My world is complicated enough that I can’t follow a rigid schedule — I’d just end up skipping my routine. Instead, I commit to doing my routine four days a week, usually in the mornings but some days before dinner.
Where are you in terms of implementing all five of the ACSM’s recommendations? There is no time like the present to get started. Act now.
My other article in this issue, Cross-Train for Fun and Fitness This Winter, lists 12 different cross-training options to work on endurance and strength, balance and strong bones.
My eArticle Healthy Cycling Past 50 describes both cycling and supplementary exercises to meet all five of the ACSM’s recommendations. The eArticle includes three sample exercise programs.
My four-part CYCLING PAST 50 BUNDLE includes:
Healthy Cycling Past 50 – what happens as we age and how to incorporate cycling and other exercise activities into our daily lives to stay healthy and active for many years.
Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 – how to best work on your off-season conditioning given the physiological changes of aging.
Healthy Nutrition Past 50 – what to eat and drink to support both a healthy lifestyle and continuing performance.
Performance Cycling Past 50 – how to train to achieve more specific cycling goals given the physiological changes of aging.
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Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.