A Little Exercise Goes a Long Way

12 January 2017

A Little Exercise Goes a Long Way

Let’s face it, going to the gym can be an arduous task that takes up a lot of spare time. But all that might be about to change. A collaborative report from Harvard University, University College London and Loughborough University suggests that you may want to start ‘cramming’ your weekly exercise into shorter periods.

We take a look at their findings, and the health benefits, below.

Busy lifestyles mean that an increasing number of “weekend warriors” are squeezing the recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity into just a couple of sessions. This has shown to be effective in reducing the mortality risk from cancer, heart disease and other life-shortening illnesses.

The data comes from a survey of more than 63,500 respondents in England and Scotland, over an 18-year period. The research suggests that participants who completed an ‘insufficient’ amount of exercise twice a week lowered their chances of death by 34 per cent when compared to people who live a sedentary lifestyle.

The results also show that those who exercise a couple of days a week reduce their risk of cardio-vascular disease by 40 per cent. Similarly, the study showed that mortality rates for cancer dropped between 14-21 per cent when measured alongside those who don’t work out at all.

The World Health Organization recommends that healthy adults should participate in 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, not including activity associated with regular occupational or domestic work.

As a general rule, moderate exercise should be defined as movements that can be executed while holding a normal conversation, while a more vigorous workout should make talking very difficult.

While the study makes note of respondents who are smokers, it does not measure other lifestyle factors linked with better health, such as obesity and alcohol consumption.

60 per cent of those surveyed were assessed as being ‘inactive’. These people were more likely to be older, smokers and had a higher chance than the average participant of having a long-standing illness, such as type-2 diabetes or high-blood pressure.

Perhaps the most striking findings were those relating to low-levels of physical activity. The study showed that those who engage in short bursts of high intensity training and regularly walk, can benefit from the effects. Research shows that this is particularly true among the most obese respondents, including those with major risk factors.

Likewise, the “weekend warriors” research suggests that it may not be the quantity of exercise which is important, but the quality. This also shows that cardiorespiratory fitness, which can be sustained with just two sessions per week, is a stronger predictor of mortality than the frequency of workouts.

As a result, those with time commitments could potentially see the biggest gains from implementing very small changes.

Do you feel the health benefits of only exercising at the weekend? Is there a particular fitness regime you stick to? We’d love to hear you thoughts over on Twitter.