All of us, at some point or another, want to feel a little better about ourselves, get a bit stronger, increase stamina, and perform at the top of our game. But how can these desires be achieved? Check out the ways below that are supported by recent research.
Boost your self-image: You don't need to spend your money on pricey cosmetics and weight loss pills to feel better about yourself - a bout of good old exercise will do the trick. In a review of 57 studies that investigated the effects of physical activity on body image, researchers from the University of Florida found that exercise boosted self-image regardless of whether actual changes in body composition and fitness level occurred. Furthermore, the research results indicated that the effect on body image was greatest for those who exercised most often. The investigators conclude that the dose of exercise needed to improve self-image may be lower than that required to achieve physical benefits (e.g., improved exercise endurance).
Build stronger muscles: Performing one set of 8-12 repetitions per weight training exercise is sufficient to improve your strength. But, if you really want to see results you will need to add a few more sets to your routine. According to a review of the literature published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Strength Training and Conditioning Research, performing 2-3 sets per activity will increase your strength gains by 46% over what you can achieve by completing just one set.
Increase stamina: If you want to give your energy levels a boost midday, engage in a little low- to moderate-intensity exercise. Researchers from The University of Georgia found that the energy levels of previously inactive individuals who complained of chronic fatigue were increased by 20% when they engaged in either low- or moderate-intensity exercise for 20 minutes, 3 times per week for a period of 6 weeks compared to those subjects who did not exercise during that same time frame. Interestingly, low-intensity exercise was associated with a greater reduction in feelings of fatigue than was moderate-intensity exercise (65% versus 49%, respectively). The authors explained that for individuals who suffer from chronic fatigue, moderate-intensity exercise may be too difficult to perform.
Improve exercise performance: What does rest have to do with it? Plenty according to a Stanford University study that investigated the role of sleep patterns on athletic performance in members of Stanford's Women's tennis team. The athletes experienced improvements in hitting depth and accuracy of serves as well as better sprint drill times after a 5-6 week period during which they aimed to get 10 hours of sleep per night. Adequate sleep is essential because it is during sleep that the body restores and heals itself, especially after long bouts of intense exercise and training. Bottom line, the harder your workouts, the more hours of sleep you may need to get at night.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
J Health Psychol 2009: 14: 780, "Effects of Exercise Interventions on Body Image: A Meta-analysis," Campbell, A. and Hausenblas, H.
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, September 2009, Volume 23, Issue 6 - pp. 1890-1901, "Single Versus Multiple Sets of Resistance Exercise: A Meta-Regression," Krieger, J.W.
University of Georgia Office of Public Affairs news release, February 28, 2008, "Low-intensity Exercise Reduces Fatigue Symptoms by 65 Percent, study finds," Puetz, T.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine news release, June 8, 2009, "Study Shows Sleep Extension Improves Athletic Performance and Mood," Mah, C.
Labels: athletic performance, muscular strength, self-image, sleep, stamina, vigor