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For Weekend Warriors, One to Two Days of Exercise may be Enough

February 11, 2017

According to one recent study, you may not need to work out every day to experience positive health gains.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, indicates that one to two days a week of moderate or intense exercise is enough to reduce your risk of death from heart disease, cancer and basically any other health condition.

Health Benefits for Weekend Warriors

In the study, researchers analyzed data from a survey of 63,591 adults. They essentially found that doing some activity, whether it's daily or once a week, is better than doing nothing. In detail, the study found that about 66 percent of those surveyed weren’t active and didn’t regularly exercise. About 22 percent were insufficiently active, meaning they got less than the World Health Organization’s recommended amount of 150 minutes of moderate activity (walking, jogging) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week (sprinting or cycling). Four percent of those surveyed were “weekend warriors” who achieved the recommended amount of physical activity in only one or two sessions a week. The study then looked at which group of adults would live longer.  The study found the most active adults had less health problems and lived longer. Weekend warriors also had an advantage of living longer over inactive adults by almost 30 percent.

The study indicates that intensity of exercise may be almost as important as the frequency of it. Weekend warriors in the study achieved the same amount of exercise in a shorter period, but those who exercised more regularly — above and beyond the recommended guidelines — achieved the most health benefits. People who exercise regularly often have reduced risk of illness and live a couple years longer than inactive adults.

Why Exercise is So Important

Study after study has shown the long-term benefits of exercise, from reduced cancer risk to improved brain health.

Whether you get 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity over the course of seven days or in two days alone, simply hitting these numbers in a given week should be the end goal — not necessarily how long it takes you to get there. And whether you get all your exercise in on the weekday or over the weekend, any level of activity is better than sitting on the couch.

Still, I’d caution weekend warriors that the risk of fatigue is probably greater with shorter, more intense periods of physical activity compared to four or five-day-a-week workouts. Also, it’s harder to build healthy habits if they’re only confined to one or two days a week. However, with busy work schedules and family obligations, some people only can fit exercise in on Saturday and Sunday. To me, that’s fine because something is better than nothing at all (24 percent of Americans don’t engage in regular physical activity, according to 2013 data). Many of us made New Year’s resolutions to get and stay active. So, if health is your priority this year, go ahead and get started. Even if it’s just on the weekend.