General Principles of Exercise Prescription

Realize the importance of engaging in physical activity and exercise for your health and well-being!

Tips for Exercise Beginners:

  • Find activities you enjoy, and begin gradually! 
  • Speak to an exercise professional. We are happy to help! 
  • Follow “Physical Activity Basics” and/or the “Exercise Programming” information below. 

In order to engage in a safe and effective exercise program, complete the following steps: 

Complete the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire for Everyone (PAR-Q+)

The health benefits of regular physical activity are clear; more people should engage in physical activity every day of the week. Participating in physical activity is very safe for MOST people. The PAR-Q+ will tell you whether it is necessary for you to seek further advice from your doctor OR a qualified exercise professional before becoming more physically active. 

Exercise Programming 

General Cardiorespiratory Exercise Programming: 

Frequency: For most adults, spreading the exercise sessions across 3–5 days/week may be the most conducive strategy to reach the recommended amounts of PA 

Intensity: Moderate and/or vigorous-intensity or a combination 

“The talk test is a simple way to measure relative intensity. In general, if you’re doing moderate-intensity activity you can talk, but not sing, during the activity. If you’re doing vigorous-intensity activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.”– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Duration: Most adults should accumulate 30–60minutes per day/week of moderate intensity exercise, 20–60 minutes per day/week of vigorous intensity exercise or a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity exercise daily to attain the recommended targeted volumes of exercise. 

Activity: Aerobic exercise performed in a continuous or intermittent manner that involves major muscle groups is recommended for most adults. 

Each exercise session should include a warm-up and cool-down period 

General Resistance Exercise Programming: 


    • For novice trainers, each major muscle group should be trained at least 2 days/week.
    • For experienced trainers, frequency is secondary to training volume, thus individuals can choose a weekly frequency per muscle groups based on personal preference. 


    • For novices, performed for 8–12 repetitions is recommended to improve muscular fitness.
    • For experienced exercisers, a wide range of intensities and repetition ranges are effective dependent on the specific muscular fitness goals

Sets: 2 to 4 sets

    • For older adults and deconditioned individuals, use 1 set.

Activity: Multi-joint exercises. Singles-joint exercises can be incorporated, typically after performing multi-joint exercise.

Rest Intervals: > 2 minutes between sets

    • 48 hours or longer is recommended for any single muscle group

General Flexibility Exercise Programming:

Frequency: 2 to 3 sessions per week
Intensity: Stretch to tightness (not pain) at the end of the range of motion

    • Holding a static stretch for 10–30s is recommended for most adults.
    • In older individuals, holding a stretch for 30–60s may confer greater benefit.

Activity: Static (after exercise) or dynamic (prior to exercise) stretch all major muscle groups.

The information from the above pages was cited from: American College of Sports Medicine. G. Liguori, Y. Feito, B. Roy and C. J. Fountaine. (2021) ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. 11th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

North Carolina Wesleyan University is 1 of only 149 universities and colleges around the world to be honored by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Exercise is Medicine® initiative for its efforts to create a culture of wellness on campus. Campus-wide initiatives focused on physical activity and health at the University have helped Wesleyan earn silver-level designation from the Exercise is Medicine® On Campus (EIM-OC) program.

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