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New Research Finds Ideal Number of Weekly Workouts to Make a Difference in Your Health
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Scientists have long tried to tackle the question of whether exercise is better when workouts are longer or when they're more frequent. A recent study out of Edith Cowan University aimed to answer the question of just how many workouts are needed each week to see the best results.
To conduct the test, researchers split participants into two groups. One group performed a single three-second, maximum-effort bicep contraction, mimicking the action of lowering a heavy dumbbell, two days per week, while the other did the same thing three days per week.
Previous research from the university found using this same action that muscle strength can be greatly improved when done daily for five consecutive days a week for four weeks.
The study's lead Prof. Ken Nosaka spoke on the findings, which helped pinpoint the ideal length and frequency of workouts to reap the full benefits of exercise.
“Our previous work has shown regular, shorter exercise is more beneficial than one or two big training sessions in a week,” Prof.
Nosaka said. “Now, we have a clearer idea of where the tipping point is where you start to see meaningful benefits from such a minimal exercise. These new results suggest at least three days a week are required, at least for the single three-second eccentric contraction training."
Three workouts a week is the sweet spot, but the more you can squeeze in, the better. The previous study's participants who performed the same bicep curl exercise fivedays a week saw more than 10 percent increases in strength over the three-day group.
There is a plateau point, though. Nosaka explained that working out every day of the week doesn't improve results even further.
"Muscle adaptations occur when we are resting, so muscles need rest to improve their strength and their muscle mass," he stated plainly. "It should be noted that the exercise was only three seconds, so the rest between exercises in the study was close to 28,800 times more than the exercise time. But muscles do appear to like to be stimulated more frequently, especially for the small volume of muscle strengthening exercise."
It's all about striking a balance and finding what works best for you, but it should now be easier to come up with ways to maximize gains if you're pressed for time throughout the week.