When it comes to strength training, the study concludes, you can get just as much benefit from performing one set of each exercise as you can multiple sets. (Note: somewhere in the study, that I cannot seem to pinpoint at this time, there is a stated conclusion that appreciable gains CAN be made by going past 3 sets, but that's another post!). In other words, if you have limited time and/or energy on any given day, don't neglect your date with pumping iron. Get in there and bang out one set of everything.*
I recently heard Dr. John Berardi talk about this same thing from a different perspective: his own personal fitness journey. He's been strength training for years. During a season in which he had very little time to squeeze a workout into his day, he started experimenting with 15 minute bouts of exercise. His result confirmed the findings of the Wescott study: He was able to maintain his strength and fitness by as little as two 15-minute workouts a day -- maybe 3 times a week. If your day gets away from you, and you simply cannot get to the gym (try to keep this to a minimum by scheduling the time), take a walk. Stretch. Do some bodyweight exercises at home or at the park. Sit on a Stability Ball for the day instead of your regular office chair (sorry, Alissa Costello... I just couldn't resist!). In other words, doing something is better than doing nothing.
*In order to be effective for gaining or maintaining strength, your exercises (lifts) should be performed at an intensity level that initiates muscle breakdown. The gains come when the muscle rests and then repairs. In other words, your lifts (however many sets you choose to do), should be performed in the upper levels of the RPE chart for weight training. So, don't come to me with your little pink Barbie weights in hand saying that you're not getting the results you want by following Westcott's protocol. Get out there and, as Rachel Cosgrove says, lift something heavier than your purse!
A written synopsis of the study can be found here:
Interview with Dr. Wayne Westcott on High Intensity Nation: http://www.highintensitynation.com/2011/10/high-intensity-training-interview-of-the-month-dr-wayne-westcott/