New study shows when it comes to exercise, frequency matters

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Is it better to exercise a little bit every day or longer once a week? New research has found that when it comes to building muscle strength, daily activity may be the most beneficial approach.

The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, was conducted by researchers from Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, Australia in collaboration with Niigata University and Nishi Kyushu University in Japan. Investigators engaged three groups of participants comprised of 36 healthy young adults to perform an arm resistance exercise to form a bicep contraction. Changes in muscle strength and thickness were evaluated.

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 group performed all 30 into a single day, once a week (30x1 group). Another group only performed six contractions one day a week.

According to the study, after four weeks, the group doing 30 contractions in a single day did not show any increase in muscle strength, although muscle thickness increased 5.8 percent.

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

The 6x5 group, however, saw a more than 10 percent increase in muscle strength- with an increase in muscle thickness similar to the 30x1 group. 

“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,” said Ken Nosaka, PhD, exercise, and sports science professor at ECU in a statement. “This research suggests the importance of accumulating a small amount of exercise a week, than just spending hours exercising once a week. We need to know that every muscle contraction counts, and it’s how regularly you perform them that counts.”