It’s how often you exercise, not how much you exercise

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

Should you exercise a little bit every day, or exercise for longer once a week? It’s a dilemma faced by many health-conscious people.

Scientists from Edith Cowan University and elsewhere found a little bit of daily activity could well be the most beneficial approach, at least for muscle strength.

And happily, they also suggest you don’t have to put in a mountain of work every day.

In the four-week training study, the team had three groups of participants performing an arm resistance exercise, and changes in muscle strength and muscle thickness were measured and compared.

The exercise consisted of ‘maximal voluntary eccentric bicep contractions’ performed on a machine that measures muscle strength in each muscle contraction you would do at the gym.

An eccentric contraction is when the muscle is lengthening; in this case, like lowering a heavy dumbbell in a bicep curl.

Two groups performed 30 contractions per week, with one group doing six contractions a day for five days a week (6×5 group), while the other crammed all 30 into a single day, once a week (30×1 group).

Another group only performed six contractions one day a week.

The team found after four weeks, the group doing 30 contractions in a single day did not show any increase in muscle strength, although muscle thickness (an indicator of an increase in muscle size) increased by 5.8 percent.

The group doing six contractions once a week did not show any changes in muscle strength and muscle thickness.

However, the 6×5 group saw significant increases in muscle strength—more than 10 percent—with an increase in muscle thickness similar to the 30×1 group.

Importantly, the increase in muscle strength of the 6×5 group was similar to the group in a previous study that performed only one three-second maximal eccentric contraction per day for five days a week for four weeks.

These studies continue to suggest very manageable amounts of exercise done regularly can have a real effect on people’s strength.

If you care about exercise, please read studies about exercise that may slow down bone aging, and this exercise is vital to improving longevity in older people.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies about how to use exercise to prevent and treat high blood pressure, and results showing this common supplement may lower muscle soreness after exercise.

The research was published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and conducted by Professor Ken Nosaka et al.

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