Fitness at College

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Exercise is important for a healthy mind and body. It’s a lot more than an energy booster and a stress reliever. Exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight, protects against heart disease and some cancers, improves immunity and increases concentration and alertness — things that all students definitely can use!

You can achieve physical fitness with cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscular strength and endurance. To reduce the risk of chronic diseases and help manage body weight, you need about 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to intense activity on most days of the week.

Aerobic Activity (a.k.a. cardio)

These are activities that use the large muscles of your body, and that can be maintained continuously. Some examples include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, stair climbing and dancing.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that this type of activity be done:

  • 3-5 days a week
  • 20-60 minutes in duration
  • at 60%-90% of maximum heart rate (working moderately to very hard, breathing heavily, sweating)


Stretching to improve flexibility should include all of the major muscle groups throughout the body. You should stretch often enough to develop and maintain a full range of motion. One of the best times to stretch is after an aerobic workout, because your muscles are already warmed up — they will stretch better, and there is less chance that you will pull a muscle.

The ACSM recommends that this type of activity be done:

  • 2-3 days a week
  • holding each stretch for 10-30 seconds
  • repeating each stretch 3-4 times

Resistance Training

This is an important component of fitness that many people skip (especially women). Resistance training is vital for helping to improve strength and endurance, as well as increasing metabolism. As with flexibility, it is important to include all of the major muscle groups when you do resistance training.

The ACSM recommends that this type of activity be done:

  • 2-3 days a week
  • 8-12 repetitions of each exercise (8-10, mostly for strength gain — for most men; 12, mostly for endurance gain — for most women)
  • repeating each exercise for 2-3 sets

The more repetitions you perform of each exercise, the less weight you will need to lift. A good rule of thumb to follow when deciding how much weight to lift is the 12 to 15 Principle. This goes for those attempting to lift 12 repetitions. For example, if the weight is too heavy for you to lift 12 times, it is too heavy and you should use less weight. If, on the other hand, you can lift the weight 15 times, it is too light and you should use more weight. This concept can be adjusted to the 8 to 12 Principle, as well, for 8 to 12 repetitions.

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