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A Little ‘Eccentric’ Exercise Can Go a Long Way

New study reveals the power of eccentric exercise

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OK, we know there are a few of you out there who actually love to exercise. And if exercise is your drug of choice, consider yourself lucky. But for those of you who find it tiresome, painful, boring, or just can’t find the time, there is a new study that may interest you.

What if we told you that research has shown that you could achieve the same results by working out for half an hour one time a week as someone who is hitting the gym for an hour three to five days a week?

A novel study published this month in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise revealed that one 30-minute bout of so-called “eccentric exercise” each week provided a number of health benefits comparable to those achieved through weekly exercise routines involving three to five 60-minute aerobic/strength training sessions.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? But the research study results were quite clear regarding eccentric exercise’s ability to lower blood lipid levels (cholesterol) and triglycerides while boosting resting energy expenditure. And in comparing their results to previous studies examining these and other diagnostic health measures, the researchers concluded that just 30 minutes of intense eccentric exercise each week delivered a comparable level of benefit to 180 to 300 minutes of traditional cardiovascular and/or strength training exercise.

What is Eccentric Exercise?

In the words of the study authors, “Most resistance exercise programs include dynamic repetitions with both concentric and eccentric muscle actions. A concentric muscle action primarily occurs when the muscle shortens to lift a load (e.g., the upward movement of a bicep curl), whereas an eccentric muscle action occurs when the muscle lengthens to lower a load (e.g., the downward movement of a bicep curl). Most daily life activities contain both types of muscle actions. As an example, walking up the stairs works the quadriceps mainly concentrically, whereas walking down the stairs works the quadriceps mainly eccentrically.” 1

What Are the Health Benefits of Eccentric Exercise?

According to the study authors, it is believed that eccentric exercise initiates a distinct and more intensive muscle recovery process at the molecular level. As a result, the body requires more resting energy and nutrients to help restore muscular function.

Previous studies have shown that including a component of eccentric exercise into a traditional exercise program confers similar health benefits, but this was the first study to compare eccentric-only exercise versus concentric-only exercise.

1 Paschalis V, et al. A Weekly Bout of Eccentric Exercise Is Sufficient to Induce Health-Promoting Effects. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. January 2011. 43(1): 64-73.

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