There is no doubt that physical activity is good for you, but the optimal amount remains a topic of debate. The universally accepted recommendation is that we do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes with vigorous intensity. And while some people choose to fit their weekly physical activity into one or two sessions (“the weekend warrior”), others like to spread it evenly over the week, such as walking briskly for 30 minutes a day.
Although it may be easier to fit less frequent bouts of activity into a busy lifestyle, little is known about the health effects of a weekend warrior physical activity pattern. In our latest study, we sought to investigate if being a weekend warrior exercise had health benefits.
To do this we tracked the physical activity of 63,591 adults from England and Scotland over a 12-year period. During that time, 8,802 people died. We found that the risk of death from any cause was about 30% lower among weekend warrior adults compared with inactive adults.
There are good reasons to think that someone should exercise regularly, several times per week; every sustained bout of aerobic exercise improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels and glucose metabolism for a day or two.
However, in our study we found there were little differences in health benefits between regular exercisers and the weekend warriors. In other words, people who chose to walk briskly for 30 minutes on five days of the week had similar health benefits to those that chose to undertake one long walk of 150 minutes every week.