If you only have time or energy to exercise on weekends, here's some good news: "weekend warriors" who cram their exercise into just one or two days could earn basically the same health benefits as those who spread their exercise out over a whole week.
Risk reductions were similar among weekend warriors and insufficiently active adults who performed less than the recommended amount of weekly physical activity.
Currently, the World Health Organization recommends that people between 18 and 64 years old get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week, or some equivalent combination of those.
During the nine-year study period, 8,862 participants died from all causes, 2,780 from heart disease and 2,526 from cancer.
But, the data do show that some exercise is better than none, and that some of the health benefits may be the same no matter when you work in your workouts. But, many believe that weekend exercise isn't sufficient to keep a person fit and healthy.
Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney in Australia, one of the study's senior authors, found it "very encouraging" that even people who exercised as little as one or two times a week appear to lower their risk of obesity, health problems and death.
Compared with inactive adults, people who get any amount of exercise may live longer, according to the study of middle-aged adults in the United Kingdom and Scotland.
Additionally, this group had a 30 percent lower risk of overall death and 18 percent lower risk of cancer death. As a rule of thumb, if you can exercise and still carry on a conversation, then you are likely in the moderate zone.
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Researchers also cautioned that since 90 percent of the respondents were white, the benefits of weekend exercise might not be generalizable to the entire population.
"The present study suggests that less frequent bouts of activity, which might be more easily fit into a busy lifestyle, offer considerable health benefits", the researchers state in the study.
For example, only one out of three adults from the United States gets the recommended amount of exercise a week.
These so-called weekend warriors' risk of dying from all causes was roughly 30 percent less than it was for inactive adults.
A paper published January 9 in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests these warriors may be onto something. "If we can do our exercise only on the weekend, that still counts".
"Quality may be more important than quantity", the authors wrote in the study. Exercise is one of the best ways to avoid chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer, as well as an early death.
Even those who were deemed "insufficiently active", or those who only completed the bare minimum in exercise hours, lowered their mortality risks by 37% for CVD and 14% for cancer, the study states.