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Exercise

Is it better to exercise a little regularly or doing one long gym session a week?

"Just lowering a heavy dumbbell slowly once or six times a day is enough.”

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Fit young man lifting barbells looking focused, working out in a gym with other people
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

By Alice Clifford via SWNS

It is better to exercise a little but regularly than doing a single long gym session every week, scientists found.

The results could provide an easy way for the elderly to maintain their strength and even ward off osteoporosis.

The researchers found that lifting a heavy dumbbell up to six times daily is better than a single weekly session of resistance training.

Both exercise types build bigger muscles but strength only increased in the group that did it regularly.

A decrease in muscle mass, especially in the elderly, is a cause of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, dementia and musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis.

The team from Edith Cowan University in Australia along with Niigata University and Nishi Kyushu University in Japan carried out the experiment over a four-week period.

Each participant had to perform the same arm resistance exercise but the number of times they did it in the week differed.

The exercise lengthened the arm muscle in a way similar to when lowering a dumbbell in a bicep curl. Each movement is called a contraction.

Two of the groups did 30 contractions per week. One group crammed all 30 into one day, while the other did six a day for five days.

The third group did only six contractions one day a week. This group saw no change in their muscle strength or size.

Those doing 30 contractions once a week saw their muscle size increase but their muscle strength remained the same.

However, those doing six contractions five days a week had the same muscle size increase as those doing it once a week but their strength grew by 10 percent.

Woman running on a treadmill at the gym
(ESB Professional via Shutterstock)

Ken Nosaka, an exercise and sports science professor at Edith Cowan University, said: “People think they have to do a longer session of resistance training in the gym, but that’s not the case.

"Just lowering a heavy dumbbell slowly once or six times a day is enough.”

Professor Nosaka said ongoing research indicated similar results could be achieved without needing to push as hard as possible.

He added: “We only used the bicep curl exercise in this study, but we believe this would be the case for other muscles also, at least to some extent.

“Muscle strength is important to our health. This could help prevent a decrease in muscle mass and strength with aging.

“A decrease in muscle mass is a cause of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, dementia, plus musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis.”

The study showed that little but often is better for people, scientists said.

Prof Nosaka said: "This research, together with our previous study, suggests the importance of accumulating a small amount of exercise a week, than just spending hours exercising once a week.

"If you’re just going to the gym once a week, it’s not as effective as doing a bit of exercise every day at home."

He also said that a little bit of exercise also helps with resting our bodies which is equally important

He continued: “Muscle adaptions occur when we are resting; if someone was able to somehow train 24 hours a day, there would actually be no improvement at all”.

The exact reason why it is better for our body to exercise in this way is still not known.

The researchers suggest that it could be due to the frequency our brain is asked to get our muscles moving in this way.

The findings were published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

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