General Principles of Exercise Prescription

General Principles of Exercise Prescription

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

Congratulations on realizing 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 one 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 College helped Wesleyan earn silver-level designation from the Exercise is Medicine® On Campus (EIM-OC) program.

Exercise Science External Resources

Slippery Rock University Articulation Agreement

The NC Wesleyan Exercise Science Program has partnered with Slippery Rock University to offer options that will allow our students the opportunity to transition seamlessly into the Master of Science in Athletic Training program at SRU. This athletic training program provides rigorous academic curricula and a superior hands-on, patient-centered clinical experience. Read entire article – Master of Science in Athletic Training at SRU-An Articulation Agreement.

Master of Science in Athletic Training Articulation Agreement with SRU