We all know that physical activity is good for us. For that reason, the public health agencies around the world recommend that we undertake regular physical activity. The recommendations for physical activity are consistent for adults around the world and stipulate that weekly we should accumulate 150 minutes of physical activity at moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of physical activity at vigorous intensity or some combination of the two that results in similar caloric expenditure. But does it matter if you do the 150 minutes of recommended activity in one day or is it better to do it over the course of the week?
Well, that was the question that researchers tried to answer. In an article published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers tracked physical activity of some 64,000 people from the United Kingdom over a period of 12 years. Approximately 14% of this population died during the 12 years. What they found was interesting. The so called “weekend warriors” or people who perform all their physical activity in one or two days a week had approximately 30% lower risk of dying prematurely compared to inactive individuals. However, when looking at the differences in health benefits between regular exercisers (people who exercise every day) and weekend warriors, little difference was found. Importantly, the weekend warriors in this study performed large portions of the physical activity at vigorous intensity, which improves fitness more than same duration moderate intensity physical activity. Similarly, a study from our group published in 2006 investigated the effect of exercise on cardiovascular mortality in some 50,000 individuals followed up for 16 years and found that a single weekly bout of vigorous intensity exercise may reduce risk of cardiovascular death by 40% in men and 50 % in women.
Thus, any physical activity is better than none. How you do you physical activity does not matter. It only matters that you do it.
Nina Zisko, PhD student at CERG