‘Weekend warriors’ can live as long as those who exercise daily
People who shun exercise during the working week then embark on a fitness blitz on their days off gain almost the same benefits as those following daily regimes, a study has indicated.
Previously, experts believed intensive activity at the weekend was not enough to stave off five days of sedentary office life. But a study has now suggested that the so-called “weekend warrior” lifestyle still offers significant long-term health benefits, lowering the risk of early death from cancer and heart disease.
“The weekend warrior activity pattern, characterised by one or two sessions per week of moderate or vigorous physical activity, may be sufficient to reduce risks for all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality, regardless of adherence to prevailing physical activity guidelines,” said Dr Gary O’Donovan, the lead author, of Loughborough University.
The NHS recommends adults do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity, or at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity, or equivalent combinations.
But some smaller studies have suggested that cramming a week’s worth of exercise into just one or two days can increase the risk of injury and put too much pressure on the heart. The latest research followed more than 63,000 British adults between 1994 and 2012 to find out if exercise needed to be done on a daily basis. During that period there were 8,802 deaths from all causes, 2,780 from cardiovascular disease and 2,526 from cancer.
However, the risk of early death fell significantly for all those who exercised, regardless of whether they crammed all their activity into the weekend or spread it throughout the week. Compared with inactive individuals, weekend warriors had a 30 per cent lower risk of early death overall, a 40 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and were 18 per cent less likely to die of cancer. Those who exercised throughout the week had a 35 per cent lower risk of dying, a 41 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21 per cent lower risk of cancer.
“It is very encouraging news that being physically active on just one or two occasions per week is associated with a lower risk of death, even among people who do some activity but don’t quite meet recommended exercise levels,” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, senior author, from the University of Sydney.
“However, for optimal health benefits from physical activity it is always advisable to meet and exceed the physical activity recommendations.”
The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The Telegraph, London
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