Ladies, if you’re currently racking up more than four days of exercise a week, I have good news: You can cut back! A new study found that four weekly workouts is exactly the right amount for women.
Researchers divided a group of 72 sedentary women into three groups, one which worked out twice a week (one day of weight lifting, one day of cardio endurance); one which worked out four times a week (two weight-lifting sessions, two cardio-endurance sessions); and one which worked out six times a week (three weight-lifting, three cardio). The women maintained this regimen for four months.
At the end of the study, researchers found that (duh) all the women were stronger and had shed some body fat, but, interestingly, the fitness gains between the groups were about even. In other words, the two-times-a-weekers were just as fit as the four- and six-times-a-weekers.
But! The women who worked out four times a week had something extra: They “were now expending far more energy, over all, than the women in either of the other two groups. They were burning about 225 additional calories each day, beyond what they expended while exercising, compared to their calorie burning at the start of the experiment,” reports the New York Times. And the twice-a-weekers were burning about a hundred extra calories a day. But get this: Those overachieving six-times-a-week workout fiends were actually burning about 200 fewer calories each day than they were at the start of the study. Crazy, right?
Researchers say that the reason the two- and four-times-a-week exercisers were burning more calories was because they felt more energized throughout the day, so they were making more active choices, like opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator and going for walks just because. Those who worked out six times a week were sapped and opted to rest in their downtime.
Conclusion? Don’t feel guilty about cutting back on your gym time if you notice your energy is taking a toll. You’re far better off working out less and being more active in your every day activities than plopping on the couch for hours after a tough week of workouts.
In other words, less is more. And let’s enjoy it, ladies.