We have been talking lately about consistency. You have to take consistent action if you want to reach your goals. You cannot perform an action today and then repeat it the next time you “feel like it.” Consistency is completing an action over and over again at regular intervals. Malcolm Gladwell argues in one of his books that you have to spend 10,000 hours practicing before you become an expert. However, what should we consider regular intervals?
The regularity of your practice is entirely dependent upon your goal. Generally speaking, your intervals will be more frequent if you are trying to master a more technical goal. For example, when you start a job, any exposure is experience that will help you in the long run. However, as you get closer to a promotion, your actions must become much more specific and regular. This is similar to the Funnel Analogy we discussed HERE.
So, how does this apply to those of us trying to workout for better health?
A Little Science
Don’t worry, nothing too technical. Our bodies strive to maintain equilibrium. When we place our body under stress, it adapts to lessen the stress in case the same thing happens in the future. Sprinting as fast as you can for 400m will put your body under stress. As such, if you keep running 400m sprints, your body will eventually adapt to make that activity less stressful. Thus, you will need to run faster and harder to continue forcing the body to adapt to a new stimulus.
How does this science apply to working you? It is called the Minimal Effective Dose. In other words, what is the minimum consistent action you can take to improve your physical fitness?
In a recent post from WOD_Science on Instagram, a study was conducted to determine the minimum effective dose to maintain physical fitness when life disrupts your exercise schedule. From this study, we can gleam a general idea of the minimum effective dose needed to improve your physical fitness.
To improve short periods of endurance, like workouts lasting 4-8 minutes, the average person needs 3 or more workout sessions per week as long as exercise volume and intensity are maintained.
To improve maximal strength, like a 1 rep max back squat, you need to lift at maximal effort for 3 or more reps at least twice a week.
Finally, for the elderly population trying to improve muscle mass, the study found that 3 workouts a week are necessary.
When we are talking about action performed over and over again at regular intervals, it looks like “regular” for working out is at least 3 times per week to improve overall fitness and twice per week to improve strength.