Working out every day is not a realistic task for those who work round the clock. However, the need to stay fit has pushed them to pack their weekends with workouts, the same way they load their laundry.

Yet, something is definitely better than none, for even a small amount of exercise, say researchers, can ward off premature death.

In a recent study of more than 60,000 adults in England and Scotland, those who exercise only on Saturday or Sunday – “weekend warriors” – received the same health benefits as those who did regularly over the week.

So, sweating it out in a Zumba class just once a week may not need to leave us feeling guilty anymore; it has the same margin of lowering your risk of dying young as those who work out almost daily.

“Millions of people enjoy doing sport once or twice a week, but they may be concerned that they are not doing enough,” said Gary O’Donovan, one of the researchers from Loughborough University. “We find a clear benefit. It’s making them fit and healthy.”

Every move counts and adds to increased lifespan

Conducted between 1994 and 2012 and comprising fitness data of 63,591 adults with an average age of 58 years, the study by researchers from Loughborough University and University of Sydney concluded that participants who crammed all their workouts into the weekends had about a 30% lower risk of mortality compared to adults who did not exercise at all.

"The weekend warrior and other physical activity patterns characterised by one or two sessions per week ... may be sufficient to reduce risks for all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality," explained Gary O'Donovan.

“Weekend warriors are people who meet the recommended volume of physical activity each week through only one or two sessions. There are doing a large proportion of vigorous exercise and that makes you fitter than moderate exercise,” said O’Donovan. Additionally, men and women were found to benefit equally.

Those who exercise less frequently also have lower health risks

In addition, the research suggested that the weekend exercise had an even more profound effect on cardiovascular disease – a 40% in risk – and cancer rates were reportedly 18% lower than those who led non-active lifestyles.

The World Health Organization recommends anyone aged 18 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes of "moderate-intensity aerobic activity" per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week.

Those who exercised but did not meet the WHO exercise time targets were still found to have a 29% lower death rate than those who were sedentary.

"The novel finding is that it appears the duration, and possibly the intensity, of leisure time physical activity is more important than the frequency," said Ulf Ekelund from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, who was not involved in the research.

“My take home message is that the greatest risk reduction and the greatest gain for the individual and for public health is if those who are physically inactive take up some activity.” MIMS

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