Exercise spread out over the day - studies?
June 2, 2015 9:39 AM   Subscribe

How does the body respond to small amounts of body-weight exercise spread out over the day compared to a half hour block? Especially looking for evidence, studies, and cites.

Note: I am NOT talking about HIIT/Tabata here; I'm talking about a 15 or 30 minute chunk of moderate body-weight exercise spread out over the day

I am of the "the best exercise is the exercise you'll actually keep doing" school of thought. I walk a lot (20-25 miles a week, with lots of hills), and I feel fairly fit, but I like to try to get in a few pushups and lunges here and there, too.

However, I don't always work up the motivation to do a whole set of body-weight exercises at once. When I do, I try to do pushups, military presses, lunges, squats, and a few other things, sometimes to failure but more often just 10-20 reps.

Lately, I've been taking breaks during the work day and just doing 5 or 10 pushups or lunges as a quick pick-me-up - so, less than 60 seconds of effort at a time.

My question: in terms of calories, muscle-building, circulation, etc., what difference is there between doing body-weight exercises in a 15 to 30 minute chunk versus doing 5 reps here and 5 reps there over the course of the day, assuming the total number of reps is the same?

I would especially appreciate any links to studies or summary evidence you might have.

posted by kristi to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Not a study, but, if I recall correctly, Pavel Tsatsouline claims in this book, with only anecdotal evidence, that opportunistic exercise works really, really well.

I am just a random guy on the internet, but I would expect that a) single workout, high-intensity, rapid-time-to-failure would increase max strength and power and b) opportunistic exercise, as you describe, would increase endurance (total number of reps somewhere below max strength) and possibly power, if done with high intensity, but not max strength.

And, with opportunistic exercise, I would expect larger muscles, a la bodybuilding vs stronger, more compact muscles a la powerlifting.

And calories would depend on whichever workout style caused you to actually do more exercise (burn more calories) and whichever workout style released more hormones to cause a larger (super)compensation response. The latter, especially, probably does have a study somewhere. I bet all of this has actually been studied, if someone will dig it up or has it on the tip of their tongue.
posted by zeek321 at 10:02 AM on June 2, 2015

This is slightly different from what you are looking at, but a recent study found that casual walking/light exercise just two minutes out of every hour confers a pretty decent health benefit to people who are sedentary (sitting) most of the time, whereas just standing up confers a much smaller or no benefit. Summary article:
They found that there is no benefit to decreasing sitting by two minutes each hour, and adding a corresponding two minutes more of low intensity activities. However, a "trade-off" of sitting for light intensity activities for two minutes each hour was associated with a 33 percent lower risk of dying.

"It was fascinating to see the results because the current national focus is on moderate or vigorous activity. To see that light activity had an association with lower mortality is intriguing," says lead author Srinivasan Beddhu, M.D., professor of medicine.

Beddhu explains that while it's obvious that it takes energy to exercise, strolling and other light activities use energy, too. Even short walks add up to a lot when repeated many times over the course of a week. Assuming 16 awake hours each day, two minutes of strolling each hour expends 400 kcal each week. That number approaches the 600 kcal it takes to accomplish the recommended weekly goal of moderate exercise. It is also substantially larger than the 50 kcal needed to complete low intensity activities for two minutes each awake hour over the course of one week.

"Based on these results we would recommend adding two minutes of walking each hour in combination with normal activities, which should include 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week," says Beddhu.
FYI this is from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology; thus the references to CKD (chronic kidney disease). But the study found pretty much the same results for both chronic kidney disease patients and the general population.
posted by flug at 12:09 PM on June 2, 2015

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