The Magic Number of Weekly Workouts – Less Might Be More
Posted Feb 13 2013 2:52pm
I’m usually the last person to see a study referenced in the New York Times and run to write a blog post about it but I just saw something really interesting in wanted to share. As fitness bloggers we tend to think that working out is good, working out most days is great and working out everyday is awesome. But is more always better? Is there a magic number of workouts that helps burn more efficiently and is that number “as many as possible”?
All kind of workouts
A recent study, focusing on sedentary older women (sorry guys, this research may not apply to you) placed subjects into 3 groups – exercising supervised twice a week, four times a week, and six times a week. Each group had an even split of cardio workouts and weight lifting workouts and the workouts took into account that the subjects were sedentary to start – so they went from very easy to more involved over the course of the 4 month study. Surprisingly, the results showed that at the end of the study the women working out twice a week were just as aerobically fit and powerful as the women who worked out four and six times a week.
That’s interesting enough, but it actually seems that in addition to the women all being at the same fitness level the women exercising four times a week were burning more calories:
However, the women exercising four times per week were now expending far more energy, over all, than the women in either of the other two groups. They were burning about 225 additional calories each day, beyond what they expended while exercising, compared to their calorie burning at the start of the experiment.
The twice-a-week exercisers also were using more energy each day than they had been at first, burning almost 100 calories more daily, in addition to the calories used during workouts.
But the women who had been assigned to exercise six times per week were now expending considerably less daily energy than they had been at the experiment’s start, the equivalent of almost 200 fewer calories each day, even though they were exercising so assiduously. (quote from NYT )
So what does this mean? Likely, not much. This is a VERY small study focusing on a very unique subject group. But it does send a good reminder that more is not always best. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of seeing other people’s progress and thinking “if I want to get to where they are I need to lift more/heavier or run faster/longer/every day”. Maybe sometimes, a well planned less is more.
How often do you workout weekly? Have you ever thought about workout out less to make more progress?