- Australian researchers measured arm strength by measuring biceps contractions
- Two groups did the same exercises, one over two days and another over three days
Three days is the magic number when it comes to making ‘significant’ gains in the gym, say Australian researchers.
Researchers said the findings show the importance of regular, frequent exercise when it comes to building muscle.
People who exercised at least three days a week saw their strength increase by up to 4 percent. However, those who trained only twice experienced no significant improvement.
Experts behind the research said it shows that even small amounts of regular exercise add up, compared to infrequent bursts.
In the experiment, scientists put 26 young people on a four-week exercise regimen in which they performed a single three-second exercise on their biceps.
Half of the group performed the exercise three days a week, while the rest only did it twice a week.
At the end of the four weeks, experts from Edith Cowan University compared the muscle strength with readings taken before the experiment started.
Publish their results in that European Journal of Applied Physiology they found them who did the exercises three days a week saw their bicep strength increase by 2.5 percent when lifting and 3.9 percent when lowering.
In comparison, those who only did the exercise twice a week saw no significant change in strength.
Study leader Professor Ken Nosaka, an expert in sports science, said the results show where the ‘tipping point’ for getting results from your training was.
HOW MUCH EXERCISE SHOULD I DO?
Adults aged 19 to 64 are advised to exercise daily.
The NHS says Britons should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.
The advice is the same for disabled adults, pregnant women and new mothers.
Exercising just once or twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.
Moderate activity includes brisk walking, water aerobics, cycling, dancing, doubles tennis, pushing a lawnmower, hiking and rollerblading.
Vigorous exercise includes running, swimming, cycling fast or on hills, climbing stairs as well as sports such as football, rugby, netball and hockey.
“We have a clearer idea of where the tipping point is, where you start to see meaningful benefits from such a minimal exercise,” he said.
‘These new findings suggest that a minimum of three days per week is required, at least for the single three-second eccentric contraction exercise.
“Muscles seem to like to be stimulated more often, especially for the small amount of muscle-strengthening exercise.”
However, he added that while logic might suggest that even more frequent training, say five days a week, would produce greater results, this was not necessarily true.
“Muscle adaptations occur when we rest, so muscles need rest to improve their strength and their muscle mass,” he said.
Professor Nosaka said that while more research was needed to see if similar tipping points applied to other exercises, the results were encouraging for people struggling to find time for a full workout.
“It may be that exercising once a week for 2 hours is less effective than exercising every day for 20 minutes,” he said.
‘If it is not possible to have 20 minutes a day for training, even 5 minutes a day makes a difference to fitness and health.’
NHS guidelines suggest that adults should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week spread over four to five days.
The health benefits of regular exercise have been well established for decades.
Staying fit can ward off obesity and its health effects, such as type 2 diabetes and cancers. It can also improve bone strength and mental well-being.
However, a study by Essex researchers last year suggested that only one in 20 adults in England get the recommended amount of exercise per week.
Lack of exercise, combined with unhealthy diets, has been blamed for the growing obesity epidemic in the UK.
Recent NHS data shows that 26 per cent of adults in England are obese, and a further 38 per cent are overweight but not obese.
A third of Americans are overweight, while four in 10 are obese.
A landmark study published in May also revealed that Britain’s bulging waistlines are draining billions of pounds from NHS cash each year, with twice as much spent on obese patients as on patients of a healthy weight.
The costs per patient increases dramatically the more people weigh, as they ‘accumulate obesity-related conditions’ such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, according to research involving nearly 2.5 million people.