Tag Archives: Workout

Even a 3-second workout every day can make you fitter and stronger

Doctors and scientists are quick to point out that working out, even just for brief periods of time, can be very helpful for your health. But in a new study, a team of researchers really took that to the extreme: they wanted to see whether even just a few seconds of working out a day can make a difference. It did.

The team from the Edith Cowan University in Australia and the Niigata University of Health and Welfare in Japan recruited a group of healthy university students. They split them into two: 39 students performed a bicep curl at maximum effort for 3 seconds a day, 5 days a week, over 4 weeks. Meanwhile, 13 other students did not exercise over the same period.

The workout group performed three different bicep curl variations: isometric (with the weight parallel to the ground), concentric (raising the weight), and eccentric (lowering the weight). They worked out with a special resistance machine. Overall, over the course of the four weeks, they worked out for just 60 seconds — but the results were visible.

The researchers measured the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), a common measure of muscle strength before and after the regimen. Surprisingly, the students in the workout group exhibited a notable change, while for the control group, there was no difference.

The workout group exhibited improvements for all types of bicep variations (12.8% for concentric strength, 10.2% for isometric strength, and 12.2% for eccentric strength). Overall, the muscle strength improved by 11.5%. However, when they looked at other measures of strength, the results were less impressive.

The study authors note that the 3-second eccentric MVC of the elbow flexors performed increased isometric, concentric, and eccentric MVC torque by more than 10%. “It was concluded that the daily 3-second eccentric MVC over 20 days produced more potent effects than isometric or concentric MVC on neuromuscular adaptations,” the researchers write in the study.

The muscle thickness did not increase significantly, the researchers write, which was in line with what they were expecting. In addition, the study’s sample size was small, which is an important limitation. Nevertheless, the results are important and are an indication that even short (very short) workout training sessions can make a difference.

The results are expected to be particularly significant for beginners, people who have never really worked out or haven’t worked out for a while. It could also help fight muscle degradation in old age. Furthermore, researchers say the same effect could be observed in other muscle groups, though there is a need for further studies to confirm this.

The study was published in the journal Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

Novel ‘megastudy’ approach finds the best incentive to keep people in the gym

Getting people to stick to a workout routine is a worthy goal — but it’s also a nebulous one. Despite great interest from policymakers to promote exercise as a way to boost public health, there is still relatively little reliable data regarding what makes people stick to their routines.

Image credits Steve Buissinne.

A new megastudy aims to address that lack of data through the use of a massive number of participants to rigorously test and compare the efficacy of multiple incentives for keeping people committed to their workouts. The study tested 54 different behavioral interventions on a large number of participants in order to determine and compare the efficacy of each.

Keep gyming

“We found that rewarding participants with a bonus of [US$0.09] for returning to the gym after a missed workout produced an estimated 0.40 more weekly gym visits per participant (a 27% increase in exercise) compared with the placebo control,” the study reports, on the most efficient incentive recorded during the trials. “Second, offering participants larger incentives, [US$1.75] produced an estimated 0.37 more weekly gym visits per participant (a 25% increase in exercise) compared with the placebo control.”

The team worked with over 61,000 gym members, all of whom were subscribed to an American fitness chain. Over a four-week period, the various encouragement programs the authors experimented with boosted gym attendance between 9% and 27%.

Due to the scale of the study, 30 scientists from 15 different US universities participated. They worked in small, independent teams, and designed a total of 54 different intervention strategies to try and boost the participants’ rates of gym attendance. Each of these was meant to last a total of four weeks and ranged from digital experiences, text reminders, weekly emails, to rewards.

Just under half of these interventions (45%) had a significant effect on increasing the weekly gym visit numbers of participants. The single most effective intervention involved offering participants a cash reward for returning to the gym after missing a workout.

That being said, however, it was surprisingly hard to change the long-term habits of the participants; only 8% of the interventions trialed in the study led to participants maintaining a measurable change in their behavior after the four-week intervention period.

Beyond helping policymakers and other figures of authority better motivate people to stick to a workout routine, the work also helps showcase the potential of megastudies in furthering our understanding of particular topics. The authors themselves note that examining multiple interventions side-by-side gave them much better context than working with each strategy individually. Even those that did not lead to a noticeable increase in user gym attendance can yield valuable data when placed in the wider setting of the study, they explain.

“The megastudy paradigm ensures that all results, including null results, are published and that insights can still be gleaned from comparing treatments across studies, as illustrated both by this megastudy and a follow-up megastudy testing the best strategies for nudging vaccination,” they write.

Such a research framework also helps address one of the main limitations of behavioral science: the need to test interventions both in the field (in real-life settings), to account for the multitude of factors shaping each of our lives, and in a controlled research setting. When examining individual methods in distinct groups, the authors explain, it becomes difficult to compare results directly with other trials; due to this, it’s not possible to test whether the differences in results come down to the interventions themselves, or to the differences among the participants.

Beyond the immediate results, the team hopes their work will help improve the accuracy of behavioral research in the future, and give us new tools to reliably study human behavior.

The paper “Megastudies improve the impact of applied behavioural science” has been published in the journal Nature.

Want to keep a young heart? Try exercising 4-5 times a week

Exercising at least 4 times a week is necessary for maintaining a young heart, a new study concludes.

That exercising helps keep us healthy should be a secret to no one. But how much you should exercise — that’s a different problem. In a new study, authors carried out an examination of 102 people over 60 years old, with a consistently-logged, lifelong exercise history. Researchers also gathered detailed measures of arterial stiffness from all participants — a key index of arterial health. Based on the results, participants were split into the following groups:

  • Sedentary: less than 2 exercise sessions/week;
  • Casual Exercisers: 2-3 exercise sessions per week;
  • Committed Exercisers: 4-5 exercise sessions/week; and
  • Masters Athletes: 6-7 exercise sessions per week.

They found that exercising 2-3 times a week helps keep the middle-sized arteries young. Notably, these are the arteries which supply oxygenated blood to the head and neck. However, in addition to this, people who exercised 4 times per week or more also kept their main arteries healthy — the arteries which provide blood to the chest and abdomen.

So the conclusion is that even a couple of weekly workouts is good, but if you really want to keep your heart going, you should probably push it to about 4 or 5 a week.

The good thing about this study is that it could be an important step towards developing exercise strategies to slow down such aging.

“This work is really exciting because it enables us to develop exercise programmes to keep the heart youthful and even turn back time on older hearts and blood vessels,”  says Benjamin Levine, one of the authors of the study.

“Previous work by our group has shown that waiting until 70 is too late to reverse a heart’s ageing, as it is difficult to change cardiovascular structure even with a year of training. Our current work is focussing on two years of training in middle aged men and women, with and without risk factors for heart diseases, to see if we can reverse the ageing of a heart and blood vessels by using the right amount of exercise at the right time”.

There are still significant drawbacks of this study. For starters, 102 people is not the largest sample size you can ask for. Secondly, even though the data was very thorough, it didn’t include any information about the intensity and duration of the workout, which could have significant vascular consequences.

However, while researchers still aren’t sure exactly how much exercise is enough, even a bit is better than nothing. So if you want to maintain a healthy and young body, you’d best start working.

Journal Reference: Shibata, S et. al. The Effect of Lifelong Exercise Frequency on Arterial Stiffness. JPhysiol. 21 May 2018. doi: 10.1113/JP275301


Exercising in a group rather than alone is a great way to handle stress, researchers reveal

Working out in a group can improve your quality of life and lower stress significantly, compared to exercising individually, a new paper reports.


Image via Pixabay.

Exercising as part of a group could prove to have some meaningful advantages over flying solo, according to researchers from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. They found that individuals usually put more effort in the task but see no significant changes in their self-perceived stress levels and only limited improvements in quality of life compared to those who work out in groups.

“The communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues, and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone,” said Dayna Yorks, DO, lead researcher on this study.

“The findings support the concept of a mental, physical and emotional approach to health that is necessary for student doctors and physicians.”

Dr Yorks and her team recruited 69 medical students at the college for the study. Medical students are a group known for handling high levels of stress and who usually reports low to very low quality of life. The students were allowed to select following a twelve-week exercise program either within a group setting or individually. A control group was also set up, and its members were asked to abstain from any exercise other than walking or biking as a means of transportation.

Every four weeks, participants had to complete a survey in which they rated their levels of perceived stress and mental, physical, and emotional quality of life.

Those who opted for group exercise spent 30 minutes at least once a week in a core strengthening and functional fitness training program called CXWORX. By the end of the experiment, their mean monthly scores showed significant improvements in all three categories (12.6% for mental, 24.8% for physical, and 26% for emotional wellbeing).

Individual fitness participants, in contrast, were allowed to keep any exercise schedule they liked and could opt from a wide range of activities such as running and weight lifting — but they had to always work out alone or with no more than two partners. On average, their surveys showed that they work out twice as long as the other group, but saw no significant change in anything except mental quality of life (11% increase). The control group saw no significant changes in quality of life or perceived stress.

“Medical schools understand their programs are demanding and stressful. Given this data on the positive impact group fitness can have, schools should consider offering group fitness opportunities,” said Dr. Yorks.

“Giving students an outlet to help them manage stress and feel better mentally and physically can potentially alleviate some of the burnout and anxiety in the profession.”

But you don’t have to be a med student to feel the bite of stress — so if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, gather up a few of your friends and hit the gym. It could be just the quality of life boost you need!

The paper “Effects of Group Fitness Classes on Stress and Quality of Life of Medical Students” has been published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.