Adults are advised to do 150 minutes of moderate workout each week to stay fit
Exercising just once or twice a week in middle-age slashes the risk of an early death, a major study has found.
‘Weekend warriors’ – those who are too busy to keep fit during the week – reduce their risk of dying from any cause by 30 per cent.
While those who make time to attend the gym or go for a jog each day only reap an extra five per cent benefit.
The findings, based on health data from more than 63,000 British adults, offers hope to the many adults in their 40s, 50s and 60s who exercise on Saturdays and Sundays.
The British Health Service (NHS) and World Health Organisation recommend people each week do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise such as cycling, walking or gardening, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise such as running.
But the new study suggests that as long as people exercise at least once a week, even if they do not hit these targets, their chance of an early death is significantly reduced.
Those who do the full allocation of recommended exercise tend to be even healthier – but of these people it makes very little difference if they cram it all into one or two sessions or split it up into daily sessions.
The new study, by researchers at Loughborough University, Harvard Medical School in the United States (U.S.), and Sydney University in Australia, suggests cramming weekly exercise into just one or two sessions is almost as good as exercising more regularly.
The team, whose results are published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, tracked people over the age of 40 for an average nine years.
They found people who exercised regularly – defined as more than three times a week – were 35 per cent less likely to die from any cause in the study period than those who were completely inactive.
‘Weekend warriors’ – those who exercised once or twice a week and still hit the guidelines – were 30 per cent less likely than inactive people to die.
Those who exercised one or twice a week, but did not hit the guidelines, were 34 per cent less like to die. When they analysed deaths broken up according to specific diseases, the team found similar trends.
Compared with those who do no exercise, regular exercisers reduced their risk of death from cancer by 21 per cent, weekend warriors by 18 per cent, and those who exercised at least once a week but did not hit the target by 17 per cent.
Looking at deaths from cardiovascular disease, regular exercisers were 41 per cent less likely to die, weekend warriors 40 per cent less and those who exercised but did not hit targets also 40 per cent less.
A particularly encouraging finding was that a physical activity frequency as low as one or two sessions per week was associated with lower mortality risks, even in the insufficiently active.