An Exercise Study Found That Duration Is NOT That Important, so What Exactly Is?

Researchers found that exercising regularly is much more important than how much you do in one session. But how much exercise do you really need per one session?

It’s no news that exercise is essential to maintaining one’s health. While it’s easier for some people to create a bit of time, others are okay with more extended periods of activity once or twice per week. The question that has put many health-conscious people on their toes is whether it is better to work out a little bit each day or a few times each week.

New research from  Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia has discovered a solution. According to the study, a small amount of daily activity is more beneficial for muscular strength than less frequent, more intense workouts. Fortunately, it also suggests that you don’t need to put in much extra effort every day.

During a four-week training study, ECU collaborated with Niigata University and Nishi Kyushu University in Japan. Three participant groups performed arm resistance exercises, and researchers tracked muscle thickness and strength increases.


What the research subjects did?

The exercise included doing “maximal voluntary eccentric bicep contractions” on a machine that gauges muscle strength in each muscle contraction one would do in a gym. The lengthening of the muscle is known as an eccentric contraction. This would be comparable to lowering a large dumbbell during a bicep curl.

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What the researchers studied

Each week, two groups performed 30 contractions. One group did six contractions daily for five days per week, while the other group squeezed all 30 contractions into a single day once a week. Another group merely engages in six contractions one day a week.

Research findings

After four weeks, there was no improvement in muscular strength for the group performing thirty contractions per day. Still, there was a 6% increase in muscle thickness, indicating growth of the biceps muscles.

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There was no alteration in muscle strength and thickness in the group that performed six contractions weekly. However, the group that did six (6) contractions a day for five days a week observed gains in muscle thickness compared to those that did all 30 contractions in one day, once per week- and was greater than 10%.

This new research corroborated previous studies

The research results were comparable to persons who had only one 3-second maximal eccentric contraction each day, five days a week, for four weeks in a previous study.

Workout 7th Brigade Park Chermside P1070570
Workout 7th Brigade Park Chermside P1070570 by John Robert McPherson under CC BY-SA 4.0

According to Ken Nosaka, an ECU fitness, and sports science professor, these researches continue to show that regular exercise at relatively moderate levels can improve people’s strength.


“Contrary to popular belief, resistance training in the gym doesn’t require a long session. It’s okay to lower a heavy dumbbell slowly once or twice daily.”

He noted that although the study required participants to give their all, preliminary results from ongoing research suggested that similar effects may be attained without pushing themselves to the limit.

Although bicep curls were the only exercise in the study, Nosaka believes this would be the case for other muscles, at least to some extent.


“Our health depends on having strong muscles. This might delay the loss of strength and muscle mass that comes with aging. Many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some malignancies, dementia, and musculoskeletal issues like osteoporosis, are caused by a decline in muscle mass,” he said.

Impact on recovery

The exact reason the body responds better to eccentric resistance exercises with smaller dosages of load performed less frequently is still unknown.

Professor Nosaka speculates that it might be connected to how frequently the brain is prompted to tell a muscle to function in a particular way. He emphasized that a workout routine should also include time for recovery.


“Muscle adaptations occur while we are resting. If someone could train 24 hours a day, there would be no improvement. Muscles need to rest for enhanced strength and muscle mass, but it seems to be stimulated more frequently.

Additionally, he stressed that attempting to “make up” for missed workouts with lengthier sessions later was pointless.

“It’s possible you’re sick and can’t work out for a week. But it’s best to resume regular activity when you’re feeling better simply,” he said


What other experts think

According to Dr. Katie Hill, chief medical officer of healthcare company Nudj Health, “It’s far healthier to engage in moderate activity as many days a week as you can rather than just one or two mega-sessions.”

The best way to lower the chance of death, developing heart disease, becoming obese, and developing other chronic illnesses, according to Hill, is to combine regular daily movement with 150 minutes (per week) of moderate-intensity exercise.

“People who often live beyond 100 years, like individuals from California, Loma Linda, Italy, Okinawa, Sardinia, and Japan, lead lives that naturally call for routines about every 20 minutes.”


Hill said consistent exercise is the best method to maintain fitness at any age

“Engaging in more workouts is something we all can benefit from,” she insisted. “The exercises should include balance, strength, and cardio exercises. Among other advantages, strength and balance training preserves bone health, gradually lowers the chance of falling, and is connected to better insulin sensitivity and other metabolic test values. Cardiovascular fitness is increased through aerobic exercise, which also directly lengthens telomeres, which are closely associated with longevity.”

People should “note that everything you do is better than doing nothing,” says Dr. Rafael S. Garcia-Cortes, a cardiologist and heart failure and transplant specialist with Ascension Medical Group at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

Garcia-Cortes explained, “One mile at a low pace is better than sitting at home.” Hence, you should aim for at least 10 minutes per session and keep improving. It’s acceptable to start modestly and keep trying to get better rather than taking a chance on getting hurt.”


“With that said, we should at the very least try to stick to three to five days of exercise. And if you keep improving, you will surely meet the targets for your physical routines. In no time, you will experience all the long-term benefits on your general health,” he added.

Should guidelines on exercise be updated?

The current Australian Government guidelines indicate that adults should be active daily and do about 5 hours of moderate physical activity per week.

Instead of focusing on reaching a weekly minute target, Professor Nosaka suggested that greater emphasis be placed on the value of making exercise a daily activity.


He said, “performing a brief workout at home each day was more efficient than visiting the gym once a week.”

In light of this study’s findings and a prior one, it is essential to exercise frequently rather than only for many hours once a week.

“We must realize that every muscle contraction counts and that what matters is how frequently we perform them.”


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