Good News For Busy People: Weekend Workouts Benefit Greatly

If the only time you can get to the gym, or go cycling is on the weekend, relax. You are still doing your body a world of good.

A study* involving 63,951 adults in Scotland and England, aged 40 and above, showed that people who cram their workouts into one or two weekend sessions get nearly the same benefit as more frequent exercisers.

“Millions of people enjoy doing sport once or twice a week, but they may be concerned that they are not doing enough,” said researcher Gary O’Donovan, Loughborough University. “We find a clear benefit. It’s making them fit and healthy.”

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More Than One Way To Stay Fit

The UK’s National Health Service recommends people engage in 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly. These are the same activity recommendations given by the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

According to the UK study, people meeting the workout recommendations in one or two weekly sessions fare very well when compared to regular exercisers:

  • Men and women reaching the suggested activity target by exercising throughout the week had a 35 percent overall lower death risk than sedentary adults. Their risk for cardiovascular death was 41 percent lower.
  • Men and women reaching the activity target with one or two workout sessions had a 30 percent overall lower death risk than inactive adults. Their risk for cardiovascular death was 40 percent lower.

These results are good news for those of us with busy lives. While regular exercise provides optimal well-being benefits, we weekend swimmers and joggers enjoy nearly the same health advantage.

Inspiration For Sedentary Souls

Though a couple workouts per week are beneficial, the study outcome does not imply that out of shape individuals should fly off the couch and become weekend exercise warriors. According to O’Donovan, people middle aged and above will need 12 or more weeks of moderate exercise to prepare for more vigorous pursuits—and it’s always wise to consult with a physician before engaging in new, or more intense exercise programs.

While caution is called for, this research also offers encouragement to people who are so sedentary they believe exercise is beyond them. It indicates, as have earlier studies, that even a small amount of regular exercise provides profound health benefits, and lowers risk of death when compared to inactive lifestyles.

“My take home message [from the study] is that the greatest risk reduction and the greatest gain for the individual and for public health is if those who are physically inactive take up some activity.” ~ Ulf Ekelund, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo.

Sources: Ian Sample/The Guardian ; Mayo Clinic; AHA

* Medical data for the study was collected between 1994 and 2012.

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