WASHINGTON: According to research, a small amount of daily activity is more beneficial than longer periods of exercise spread out over the week, and you don't have to put in a mountain of work every day.
It's a dilemma faced by many health-conscious people and new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) is answering the question. This latest research indicates a little bit of daily activity could well be the most beneficial approach, at least for muscle strength.
And happily, it also suggests you don't have to put in a mountain of work every day. In collaboration with Niigata University and Nishi Kyushu University in Japan, the four-week training study 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 which 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 (6x5 group), while the other crammed all 30 into a single day, once a week (30x1 group). Another group only performed six contractions one day a week.
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 increase in muscle size) increased 5.8 per cent. The group doing six contractions once a week did not show any changes in muscle strength and muscle thickness.
However, the 6x5 group saw significant increases in muscle strength -- more than 10 per cent -- with an increase in muscle thickness similar to the 30x1 group.
Importantly, the increase in muscle strength of the 6x5 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.
ECU Exercise and Sports Science Professor Ken Nosaka said these studies continue to suggest very manageable amounts of exercise done regularly can have a real effect on people's strength.
"People think they have to do a lengthy session of resistance training in the gym, but that's not the case," he said. "Just lowering a heavy dumbbell slowly once or six times a day is enough."
Professor Nosaka said while the study required participants to exert maximum effort, early findings from current, ongoing research indicated similar results could be achieved without needing to push as hard as possible.