New Research on Exercise Shows Benefits of Consistency Over Intensity
Researchers have found that a small amount of daily activity is more beneficial than sporadic but more intense workouts when building muscle strength.
The research team consisted of researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia and Nishi Kyushu University and Niigata University in Japan. They studied three groups of people within four weeks doing arm resistance exercises. They then measured changes in muscle thickness and strength.
The participants performed bicep curls on a machine that measured muscle strength in each contraction.
Two groups performed 30 contractions per week: one did six bicep curls a day for five days a week, while the other group performed all 30 repetitions in a single day once a week. The third group only performed six bicep curls one day a week.
After the four-week training period, the researchers found that the group that did 30 bicep curls on a single day once a week showed no increase in muscle strength. However, the participants' muscle thickness increased by almost 6%.
The group that did six bicep curls weekly showed no changes in strength or size. However, the group that did six contractions per day for five days a week showed more than a 10% increase in muscle strength—a significant figure. The participants' muscle thickness was similar to the group that did 30 bicep curls weekly. The results of this study were consistent with the findings of another study.
According to Ken Nosaka, a professor of exercise and sports science at ECU, the findings show that there is no such thing as having no time when it comes to working out. Everyone has a few minutes to slowly lower a heavy dumbbell once or six times a day. When this is done consistently, it is enough.
Although the research team only examined bicep curls, Nosaka believes this would be the case for other muscles "at least to some extent."
Every movement counts
If this study has proved anything, it's better to accomplish moderate exercise as many days as possible rather than logging in one or two-hour-long sessions per week. In fact, getting up and moving every 30 minutes throughout the day has some benefits regarding reducing the harms of sedentary behavior.
For optimal health, experts suggest that besides reducing your sedentary time, you must also ensure that your exercise schedule includes a mix of aerobic, balance training, and strength training. This is because regular aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular fitness, directly contributing to longevity. Meanwhile, improving your balance and strength maintains bone health, reducing fall risk over time. It is also linked to improved insulin sensitivity.
How to be consistent
This study has highlighted the impact of frequent but lighter exercise on providing essential health benefits. Furthermore, doing less intense workouts regularly minimizes the risk of injury, making this workout plan ideal for beginners, seniors, and new amputees. This is good news for those who dread working out.
If you dread working out, you can start by telling yourself that you will only do moderate exercise for 15 to 20 minutes. This sounds less intimidating, and you're less likely to get burnt out and give up on your fitness goals.
The best way to stay consistent is to pick one or two types of movement you enjoy and set an attainable goal. For example, you can walk for 15 minutes and then do a Pilates workout for the next 15 minutes. Your goal at the beginning of your workout session can simply be finishing the 15-minute walk. Then, if you still have energy, you can proceed with the Pilates workout.
More often than not, you'll see that you still have some energy left, and since you're already in your workout clothes, you're much more likely to do another exercise set.
If 30- or 15-minute workouts still sound daunting, you can set an even smaller goal. On YouTube, search for '7-minute walking workouts.' If seven minutes seems too much, there are also 5-minute versions. Choose what feels doable for you. The important thing is to stick to doing these small workouts every day.
Over time, doing these short exercises will add up to improve your cardiovascular health and even help you lose some belly fat.
When making changes, get into the mindset of the tortoise, not the hare. After all, slow and steady wins the race in many things in life. And when it comes to improving your health, this is your best bet.