Shorter exercise regimens, sometimes intensive or intermittently intensive, have been studied in recent years. Multiple articles and press reports (often referring to hard-to-get medical journals) indicate that such regimens may have excellent results in improving muscle fitness in normal adults. I am interested.
Repetitions, Sets, Stretching
Earlier studies I have seen looked at issues such as how many sets of an exercise are optimal. For example, standard weight lifting lore is that you do three sets of each exercise, with 8-10 or 10-12 repetitions for sets. Three sets of each exercise (and variations on that advice) are relatively time-consuming in a weight regimen. About five years ago an excellent physiology study documented that a single set of 10-12 reps worked as well as two or three sets for weight training in average mid-life males. That was useful and liberating information that I believe has been validated.
Similarly, I have more recently read that static stretching, as before running or playing tennis or golf, is not helpful and potentially reduces performance, while dynamic stretching (moving your joints freely in the motions that you expect to do in the actual activity or sport) is useful. That’s a big difference.
And most recently there have been a number of reports that short periods of more intense exercise (sometimes just 10 minutes or so) once or twice a week generate as much muscle growth and resilience as much longer duration but lower-intensity activity. The details matter greatly, but this is a promising area to follow.
What I Plan to Do
I remain most interested in the physiology-based exercise recommendations that I have been following. In the coming months I will attempt to track down a much greater scope of details and provide you with a workable synthesis. The goal clearly is to help everyone get benefit from exercise and to make it as effective and efficient as possible. Shorter but more effective exercise programs are likely to be of interest to many fully employed mid-life adults with families for whom time considerations are key.