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Weekend warriors can still stave off disease even if they are packing their workouts into a couple of days, according to a new study.
Adults should get 150 minutes of physical activity and two days of muscle strengthening activity a week, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. If you are trying to spread that out over the week along with work, errands, cooking and cleaning, it can sound like a lot.
People who are physically active – whether that is on weekends only or more often – have lower mortality rates than inactive people, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
There wasn’t a big difference in all-cause or cause-specific mortality between those who exercise regularly and weekend warriors, as long as they were getting the same amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity in a week, said study author Leandro Rezende, adjunct professor of epidemiology in the department of preventive medicine at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.
“This is good news considering that the weekend warrior physical activity pattern may be a more convenient option for many people to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity,” Rezende said in an email.
As long as you are getting the 150 minutes of exercise that adults need each week – or more – working out whenever you can fit it in may help lower your mortality rate, according to the study.
The results could help public health officials promote physical activity even among busy people and support the idea that “every minute of physical activity counts,” said Eric Shiroma, staff scientist at the National Institute on Aging.
CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas often hears clients talk about their crazy weekday schedules as a reason for not exercising.
“Understandably, they don’t want to sacrifice much-needed sleep by getting up early or lose invaluable family dinner time by going to the gym right after work,” said Santas, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports. “Those are valid concerns as we all need sleep to function.
“And family dinners not only represent quality time but also increase the odds of eating healthy as opposed to grabbing fast food.”
The mortality benefits of weekend exercise are great news for people with busy weekdays, Santas said. But there are advantages to working out during the week.
The study didn’t account for sleep, injury or mental health impacts of regular daily exercise, so it is important to keep that in mind, she added.
“Bodies are designed for movement,” Santas said. “Being sedentary all week long could increase susceptibility to injury if you go too hard in your weekend workouts.”
With that in mind, it is even more important for weekend warriors to make sure they are properly warming up and paying attention to form, she said.
A study from 2018 also found that exercise plays a big role in mental health. Participants in the study who reported exercising at all had about 1.5 fewer days of “bad self-reported mental health” in the past month compared with those who did not exercise.
And a big part of many aspects of health is getting good sleep. Getting enough daily exercise can help our bodies crave rest naturally at the end of the day, Santas said.
That daily exercise to help with sleep doesn’t necessarily have to make you sweaty and out of breath, but you should strive for increased respiration and heart rate, she added.
That could mean devoting 20 to 25 minutes to a brisk walk, a bike ride or body weight exercises for better sleep, Santas said.
Shiroma recommended five ways to keep physical activity as part of your life: Find small ways like taking the stairs; exercise in ways you enjoy; make it social with friends; make and reward goals; and build back gradually when you fall off your routine.