Is there an Ideal Exercise Frequency during Weight Loss?





A new study published in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition attempted to address this question.


Overweight, dieting women were split into two different groups, which researchers referred to as high frequency (HF) and low frequency (LF).


Both groups were instructed to partake in 300 minutes of exercise per week for 24 weeks which consisted of brisk walking. The only difference was HF was instructed to do 50min/d for 6 days weekly, while the LF group was to do 100min/d for 3 days.


At the end of the study period, investigators looked at changes in weight, waist circumference, and various metabolic parameters.


A difference in average weight loss across groups was highlighted in this study. 11.7% for the LF group, and 9.5% for the HF group. There was also a slight difference in change in waist circumference favoring the LF 9.6% vs 8.1%.


In regards to glucose, lipids, insulin sensitivity there were also small differences that weren’t statistically significant.


So it looks like you should overhaul your exercise program if you’re exercising more than 3 days a week and compress that same amount of time into fewer days per week?


This is what some folks are saying. But not so fast.


First off, the changes weren’t that large. Consider this went on for 6 months. So even if changes were due to frequency rather than some other variable (which seems more likely), it’s not that big of a deal.


Second, dietary intake was reported. Most people really suck at recording and reporting what they eat. Even super nutrition try hards like myself. It’s just the way we’re wired. So changes may have been due to differences in food intake.


Third. We need to ask other questions. What type of exercise are you doing? How are you doing it? Yard work is cool. But it’s not like lifting heavy weights or sprinting up stairs. I guess you could find a way to do higher intensity yard work.


What you should do is something sustainable, while considering the questions above. If you like compressing your total volume into 3 days a week, great. 7 days? Damn swell.


I personally like 1-2 days a week most of the time. Putting on makeup and getting dressed for the gym is super aggravating. I can’t imagine doing that 6 days a week… “wait what did he say?”


The more important variables are likely TOTAL VOLUME AND INTENSITY. If your frequency is subjecting you to too little or too much volume and intensity, you will not get the results you seek.


If you are doing only high intensity sessions, you are likely better off not doing 6 days per week. But we’re all different animals. The bottom line is, as usual, if you aren’t getting the results you want, SOMETHING must change!


And sometimes it has nothing to do with physical  activity!


Madjd, Ameneh, et al. “Effect of weekly physical activity frequency on weight loss in healthy overweight and obese women attending a weight loss program: a randomized controlled trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 104.5 (2016): 1202-1208

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