Q:There are so many conflicting opinions on working out once per day v/s two or more times. Is there any benefit from working out two or more times a day in lesser amounts of time or is it better to work out once a day for a longer period?
There are truly benefits to both, and for different reasons. To start, sedentary behavior (sitting for long periods of time) is a destructive behavior by itself, so any type of movement is better than long-term sitting. Moving is always better than not moving.
Current research shows that whether you exercise for several short periods throughout the day or one longer session, the caloric expenditure is not that different. That said, both have benefits and should be used in conjunction with each other. When you have time, fit in a 30-45 minute exercise session. When you do not, try to fit in 3-4 10 minute exercise sessions throughout the day.
Benefits of shorter sessions:
- More energy each time When you exercise for short periods of time, you are more likely to give (and have) more energy per session. This can result in a higher calorie burn than if you lose stamina and give less effort in a longer workout.
- Moving is better than sitting Fitting in short bursts of exercise throughout the day is going to help counteract the metabolic consequences of a sedentary job/lifestyle. Regardless of the calorie burn, there is great benefit to be gained from keeping the metabolism from kicking into this mode.
- After interval training, the metabolic rate is at a higher than after a long, steady state session.
- Just 15 minutes of weight lifting can burn 100 extra calories for that day and the 2 subsequent days. Remember that quick weight training sessions can be added during a workday to get this benefit.
- 10-15 minute walk breaks
- Using hand-held weights or bands at your desk. 8-12 repetitions of each exercise are enough to activate the muscles.
- Squat in and out of your chair. Stand all the way up in front of your chair, squat down to tap your hips on the chair, then stand back up.
- Take the stairs slowly, two at a time to simulate walking lunges.
- Take a 2-3 minute break every hour and work ONE muscle group to fatigue (until it burns). Do a different muscle group each time. By the end of the day, you will have done a full-body strength training workout.
Benefits of longer sessions
- Cardiovascular endurance is a great benefit to keeping some steady state training into your routine. Remember that when you are doing steady state training, your body can quickly become conditioned and may burn less calories doing the same activity. Mixing up the type of cardio you do can keep this from happening.
Whatever you do, make sure you do what is best for your schedule, body, and lifestyle. There are benefits to different types of exercise, so mix it up. The more you keep it interesting, the more likely you are to stick with it.