Busy work schedules, school schedules or raising a family can make it a challenge to fit in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise five days each week. But a new study shows that cramming in all of your weekly exercise on the weekends may still be doing your body some good.
The study, by researchers from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, analyzed household-based surveys of 63,591 men and women age 40 and older who were living in Scotland and England from 1994 to 2012.
The researchers found that people who put in one or two sessions a week of 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate exercise were less likely to die from all causes, cancer or cardiovascular disease than inactive adults.
These so-called weekend warriors’ risk of dying from all causes was roughly 30 percent less than it was for inactive adults. Their risk of dying from cancer was 18 percent lower, and their risk of cardiovascular disease death was about 40 percent lower.
Current health recommendations call for 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week.
Move your body, improve your health
The study is important for those who can only hit the gym on the weekends and wonder if it’s doing any good, says sports cardiologist Dermot Phelan, MD, PhD. Dr. Phelan did not take part in the study.
“There’s a lot of people who just can’t get to exercise during the week, particularly young people with family who work long hours,” Dr. Phelan says. “This study really confirms that exercise — even if it’s just on the weekends — is important, and you can reap a big benefit from that.”
The study has a few limitations, the researchers say. The conclusions relied on people’s reports of their own physical activity levels, and it’s unclear whether their reports were always accurate.
In addition, the researchers assessed physical activity just once, at the beginning of the study, and so the researchers don’t know if people changed their exercise habits later on during the study period.
However, Dr. Phelan says, the findings are consistent with what other studies have shown: Moving your body can save and prolong your life.
Any exercise is good
Even if you exercise less than the recommended weekly amount, the study shows that you can still expect a dramatic reduction in health risks. And it doesn’t matter whether you do all your weekly exercise on the weekends or spread it out over the entire week.
That’s good news for those of us who are still working toward hitting those physical activity goals.
“Any exercise is better than no exercise,” Dr. Phelan says. “This has been shown over and over again: physical inactivity is a killer.”
So don’t let the inability to exercise vigorously most days of the week be a reason to avoid physical activity entirely, Dr. Phelan says.
“We really need to try to get out there — whatever it is that we’re able to fit into our week,” Dr. Phelan says. “If we can do our exercise only on the weekend, that still counts.”