So-called "weekend warriors" — people who exercise one or two days a week — may reduce their risk of dying over roughly the next decade nearly as much as people who work out more often, according to a new study.
Previous guidelines from the World Health Organization recommend that the average adult engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week — or vigorous activity for 75 minutes per week — in order to reduce the risks of dying from causes such as heart disease and cancer.
However, there is no consensus on how best to distribute the exercise time to achieve the greatest health benefits.
In the study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers looked to address that question.
The study found that “weekend warriors” reduced their risk of dying by 30 percent compared to those who engaged in little or no physical activity. People who exercised more often throughout the week lowered their risk by 35 percent.
For cancer deaths, the risk reductions were 18 percent in “weekend warriors” and 21 percent in those who were regularly active.
And for cardiovascular disease, there was a 41 percent lower risk of heart disease in people who were physically active one or two days a week and those who engaged in physical exertion more regularly, compared to so-called "couch potatoes."
The study, conducted during a 9-year period, was based on the self-reported exercise habits and health examinations of more than 63,000 adults in England and Scotland. The information was linked to mortality records.
Exercises included participating in sports or taking a brisk walk.
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.
But for peak health, Stamatakis said, more exercise is better.
Physical activity has been associated with a reduction in a number of risk factors for disease, including lowering cholesterol, controlling weight and reducing blood pressure.