Exercise: A Little Daily vs. A Lot Periodically

Question: Is it better to exercise a little each day or a lot in one day?

A 4-week collaborative study conducted with Niigata University and Nishi Kyushu University in Japan contained 3 groups of people performing an arm resistance exercise.  Changes in muscle strength and muscle thickness were measured at the end of the study.  The exercise consisted of maximal voluntary eccentric bicep contractions performed on a machine. Eccentric contraction occurs when the total length of the muscle increases as tension is produced. An example is lowering a heavy dumbbell in a bicep curl.

       The basis of the experiment was to have two of the said groups do thirty arm contractions in the span of 5 days. One group (group A) would perform 6 contractions daily for 5 days a week while the other group (group B) would perform all 30 contractions in one day, once per week. Finally, the last group (group C) was given the assignment of doing 6 contractions one day a week. The participants repeated this for the following 4 weeks with these results:

Group A (6 contractions 5 days a week): 

Group B (30 contractions, once per week):

Group C (6 contractions, once per week):


        Frequency of exercise done regularly can have a real effect on people’s strength.  The study suggests that people only have to do small, manageable exercise routine each day and it will have a significant effect on their health and muscle growth.  Muscle strength is important to our health.  A decrease in muscle mass as we age is a cause of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, dementia, and osteoporosis.  

So how much exercise should I be getting?

        It is more important and effective to do small amount of exercise daily than to go to the gym for a couple of hours once a week.  Adults should try to be active every day and have at least 2.5-5 hours of moderate physical activity per week.


Aiden Pham & Loanne B. Tran, MD, MPH & TM Aiden Pham Loanne B. Tran, MD Physician in primary care. Specialties: Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

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