According to the CDC, fewer than 25% of American adults get the recommended amount of exercise each week.
Given our modern schedules, it can be hard to find a consistent time to exercise on a regular basis.
A new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) on July 5th, 2022, shows that working out fewer days a week can improve your health just as much as working out more frequently!
These findings are excellent news for you if you can’t always make it to the gym but still want to stay healthy.
Let’s see how the results can apply to you.
The Benefits of Being A Weekend Warrior
The study “Association of the “Weekend Warrior” and Other Leisure-time Physical Activity Patterns With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality” looked at data from over 350,000 adults in the U.S.
Participants were asked about their physical activity habits and followed for approximately 16 years.
Researchers divided participants into two groups: those who met the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week and those who did not. The researchers then categorized the participants who met the minimum exercise guidelines into two groups. Participants were active for just one or two days per week (the weekend warriors), and those were active for three or more days per week.
The study found that participants who met the minimum WHO exercise guidelines had lower cardiovascular disease, cancer, and overall mortality rates than the inactive group, regardless of whether they were weekend warriors or regularly active.
According to this study, how you space out your exercises has little bearing on mortality risk as long as you do the appropriate amount of physical activity each week.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
The WHO recommends that all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.
They also recommend at least two days of resistance training, which may be a part of your moderate-intensity exercise activities.
You can divide the work however you like. For example, you could do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week or 75 minutes two days per week.
The great thing about this study is that it provides evidence that you can personalize an exercise routine to fit your lifestyle.
Five Simple Resistance Exercises Everyone Should Do
If you’re looking for exercises to get started with, here are five simple movement patterns that everyone should do:
- The Horizontal Push: This movement pattern trains the muscles on the front of your body, including the chest and shoulders. The most common example is the push-up and the dumbbell press.
- The Pull: This movement pattern trains the muscles on the back of your body, including the latissimus, trapezius, and rear delts. The most common examples are the row, the pull-up, or the chin-up.
- The Vertical Push: This movement pattern trains the shoulders and triceps muscles. The most common examples are overhead presses (either standing or seated).
- The Knee Flexion: This movement pattern trains the muscles on the front of your leg, which includes the quadriceps. The most common examples are squats and leg presses.
The Hip Extension: This movement pattern trains the muscles on the back of your leg, including the hamstrings and glutes. The most common examples are glute bridges and deadlift variations.
How To Get Started
If you’re new to exercise, it is essential that you start slow and gradually increase the amount of time you’re active each week. Instead of trying to go from zero to 150 minutes per week, start with whatever you can handle and work your way up.
You can also try breaking up your workouts into shorter, more manageable chunks of time.
For example, if you can’t fit in a 30-minute walk every day, try walking for 15 minutes twice daily. Or you can do longer but less frequent workouts.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. Remember, the key is to be consistent and find an exercise routine that works for you.
In fitness, something is ALWAYS better than nothing.
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.