Working out only on the weekends or otherwise compressing your total physical activity into one or two prolonged runs or a single vigorous basketball or soccer game each week could lessen your risks of dying prematurely almost as effectively as more frequent, shorter workouts spread throughout the week, according to an interesting new study of the so-called weekend warrior phenomenon.
As most of us have heard by now, the standard recommendation about how much exercise we should complete each week for health purposes is 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. Moderate exercise consists of activities like brisk walking or easy cycling that raise heart rates while still allowing us to talk to training partners, and vigorous activities are those like running, fast-paced cycling, and many team sports, including basketball and soccer, that raise heart rates into a zone where speaking is difficult.
Meeting these guidelines is associated with a substantially reduced risk of developing a wide range of diseases and dying too young.
The guidelines also suggest that, for practical purposes, people consider breaking the 150 minutes into five moderate 30-minute sessions each week or a comparable number of shorter, more vigorous workouts.
But many people apparently do not have the time or inclination to exercise five times per week. About a third of American adults engage in zero weekly exercise and others pack their workouts into one or two sessions on Saturday or Sunday, when they have more free time.
There has been little information, though, about whether the weekend warrior pattern of exercise lowers the risk for premature death as effectively as more frequent and generally shorter workouts.
So for the new study, which was published on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at Loughborough University in England and other institutions decided to delve into the exercise routines of tens of thousands of men and women already participating in the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey.
The researchers zeroed in on data from 63,591 middle-aged men and women who had provided detailed descriptions of their workout patterns when they first entered the study at least 15 years before, telling the survey questioners how many minutes they had exercised each week during the past month, what kinds of exercise they had undertaken, and how many times per week they had worked out.
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