If your goal is to lose weight and maintain optimal health and fitness, the quality of your exercise and diet regimen matters more than the quantity, says Skidmore College exercise scientist Paul Arciero.
And he has the results to prove it.
In a paper published by The Journal of Applied Physiology, Arciero and several colleagues report the clear benefits of a multi-dimensional exercise regimen that includes resistance exercise, interval sprint exercise, stretching (including yoga or pilates), and endurance exercise. Add moderate amounts of protein regularly throughout your day, and you'll be well on your way toward decreasing total and abdominal fat, increasing lean body mass, and achieving optimal levels for blood pressure, blood glucose, and insulin.
A member of the advisory board of the American Heart Association and a fellow of both the American College of Sports Medicine and the Obesity Society, Arciero is very familiar with the exercise and diet recommendations issued by these and other governing health organizations.
"They're well intended, but they're complex and they're not being communicated in a way that's easy for the public to understand and incorporate in their daily lifestyle. I wanted to test an exercise protocol with a nutritional component that's simple and understandable for people."
To conduct the study, Arciero enlisted 36 female and 21 male volunteers between the ages of 35 and 57 who could clearly be described as out of shape. They exercised less than 60 minutes per week, had done no resistance training within the last ten years, and could be described as obese or overweight, with an average body mass index of 28.6 and average body fat percentage of 36.6.
Dividing his subjects randomly into three groups, Arciero conducted a 16-week trial in which all subjects consumed the same amount of whey protein — 60 grams daily — but exercised differently. One group was sedentary, another was called on to perform intense resistance training four times per week, and the third followed a multidimensional regimen that included resistance exercise, interval sprint exercise, stretching led by a yoga instructor, and endurance exercise.
When the trial ended, Arciero found that those who had followed the multidimensional regimen showed the greatest health improvements, including the greatest reductions in body weight, total and abdominal fat mass, waist circumference, and blood glucose. In addition, this group experienced the greatest increase in percentage of lean body mass.
Interestingly, all groups showed improvements, even those who maintained a sedentary lifestyle during the period and simply ate the assigned daily regimen of 60 grams of whey protein. That finding supports an earlier study by Arciero's team that found increasing the amount of protein in one's diet to as much as 35 percent will tend to decrease total and abdominal fat.
Overall, the study supports a rethinking of current assumptions about exercise, which Arciero believes place too much focus on the quantity of exercise people do rather than the quality of that exercise.
"It's very difficult to just lift weights, or only do the treadmill or the elliptical machine and be healthy," says Arciero. "Your exercise regimen needs to encompass as much of what makes you a fully integrated living person as possible."
"It's not about simply doing more exercise," he continues. "It's about doing the appropriate range of exercises and activities that most effectively promote health and fitness."
To make the regimen easy for the public to remember, Arciero has coined the acronym, "PRISE." The "P" stands for protein, the "R" stands for "resistance," the "I" stands for "interval," the "S" stands for stretching, and the "E" stands for endurance.
For Arciero, this study was the culmination of research he has conducted and published over the last 20 years in an attempt to identify the most effective lifestyle strategies to improve health and physical performance. When the time came to capture the meaning of it all, the name "PRISE" jumped out at him.
"After all, it's about 'keeping your 'eye on the PRISE' in order to achieve optimal health," he says.