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06/02/2014 11:14 EDT | Updated 06/02/2014 11:59 EDT

Make Exercise About Quality, Not Quantity: Study

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When it comes to reaping the benefits of exercise, new research confirms the age-old adage that quality, not quantity, is the key.

And by quality, exercise scientist Paul Arciero means a multi-dimensional program that includes resistance training, interval cardio sprints, yoga or pilates and endurance training.

The findings suggest the need to reassess national health guidelines around the world that currently make recommendations based on minutes or hours spent exercising a week, as opposed to the types of activities that people undertake.

"It's not about simply doing more exercise," Arciero said in a statement.

"It's about doing the appropriate range of exercises and activities that most effectively promote health and fitness."

For their paper published in The Journal of Applied Physiology, Arciero and colleagues from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York recruited 36 females and 21 male volunteers between the ages of 35 and 57 who were obese or overweight.

Divided into three groups, the participants underwent a 16-week trial in which all the subjects consumed the same amount of whey protein -- 60 g a day -- but were put on different exercise regimens.

The first group was sedentary, the second group was put on an intense resistance training program four times a week, and the third group followed a multi-dimensional regimen that mixed cardio and strength training.

While all the participants recorded improvements, the last group, which undertook the most diverse exercise program, lost the most weight (2.6 percent) and the most fat mass (6.6 percent) and gained a greater percentage of lean body mass (2 percent) than the rest of the participants.

The findings also demonstrate the importance of protein in people’s diets and suggest upping intake to 35 percent to reduce body fat.

Similarly, a recently published study in the Journal of Nutrition also highlighted the importance of protein in our diet. To build optimal muscle mass, US researchers found that protein should be distributed evenly throughout the day, rather than being consumed primarily at night, common in Western diets.

Meanwhile, to make Arciero's exercise regime easier to remember, researchers devised the acronym PRISE: protein, resistance, interval, stretching and endurance.

Because, says Arciero:"... it's about keeping your 'eye on the PRISE' in order to achieve optimal health."

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