Recently, we wrote about how whether you exercise daily or are a “weekend warrior,” you lower your risk of an early death the same amount. That’s true. But, as with all things in health, there are many reasons why different exercise patterns have benefits. Exercising daily can help you maintain muscle strength better than working out hard on the weekends.
Working out just a couple of days a week can be easier to fit into your schedule. But, new research may have you trying to fit more steps into your day. Researchers from three universities worked together and found that, when it came to muscle strength, it wasn’t about how much people exercised but how frequently.
Researchers had people use dumbbells to do bicep curls. One group only performed six curls one day a week. One group did 30 curls one day a week. One group did six curls five days a week.
After four weeks, the researchers looked at changes in the participants. The group doing the least amount of exercise just one day a week saw no change. The group performing all their exercise in one day saw no change in their muscle strength, but their muscle size had increased by 5.8 percent. The group that spread their exercise out over six days saw the same increase in muscle size but also had a 10 percent increase in strength.
“People think they have to do a lengthy session of resistance training in the gym, but that’s not the case,” said Prof. Ken Nosaka of Edith Cowan Univ. “Just lowering a heavy dumbbell slowly once or six times a day is enough. 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 disease such as cardiovascular disease, [blood sugar concerns], some cancers, dementia, plus musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis.”
He said that daily working out a little at home is healthier than going to the gym once a week. He stressed that it’s not about hitting a big goal but doing something daily. That could be as little as getting out for a walk or picking up around the house daily. Carrying a heavy laundry basket is its own form of bicep curl!
“The key to muscle mass development and maintenance is working a well-fueled muscle,” said Connie Diekman, a former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “We do know that regular muscle work, even if it is simply walking, does maintain muscle mass, even if there is no resistance work.”
Being a weekend warrior can cut down on your risk of dying young. But if healthy, strong muscles are your goal, getting some movement into your day is key to growing and maintaining them.