A Little Exercise Goes a Long Way towards Prolonging Life Span

With a new year comes new resolutions. A common goal is to be more active, exercise regularly, or lose weight. Unfortunately, people tend to approach these health resolutions with unrealistic goals. For instance, working out at the gym every day for an hour is not necessary. When it comes to exercising, health experts typically recommend 75 minutes of vigorous exercise to 150 minutes of moderate exercise. When starting your fitness journey, these unrealistic standards could harm your health.

Additionally, because people are too busy during the week to exercise daily, they are cramming the recommended weekly amount of exercise into just one or two days. The media has dubbed those involved in this growing trend the weekend warriors. However, until recently, no studies proved the benefits, if any, of a weekend-warrior approach.

Study Reveals the Benefits of Any and All Exercise

As it turns out, it does not matter whether you space out your workouts or cram them in on the weekend! Researchers at Loughborough University in England conducted a study proving that regardless of how or when you exercise, you significantly reduce the risk of premature death.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine on January 9, 2017, involved a survey of approximately 64,000 adults in the UK from 1994 to 2008. Throughout the survey, the researchers categorized the participants into four categories based on how much they exercise.

  • Inactive – 63% of participants
  • Regular exercisers (meet guidelines) – 11% of participants
  • Insufficiently active (do not meet guidelines) – 22% of participants
  • Weekend Warriors – 4%

Results Show Longer Lifespans

By the end of 2016, 8,802 of the participants died. The results revealed insufficient exercisers, as well as weekend warriors, have a 30% lower risk of dying than inactive adults. Results for regular exercisers were only slightly better; they lowered their risk by 35%. Furthermore, active individuals significantly reduce their chance of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in America. The participants who exercised versus those who did not exercise had a 40% lower risk of heart disease. As for the second leading cause of death in America – cancer – exercisers had an 18% lower chance of being diagnosed. In addition to reducing the chances of heart disease, exercise also combats dementia, depression, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, and diabetes. With all these benefits, there is no reason not to exercise. Even if the workout is short or only on the weekends, it will drastically improve your quality of life.

“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 the study’s lead author, Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the University of Sydney.

Bottom Line

Since exercise frequency and duration do not matter, as the study showed, we should probably see a rise in the weekend warrior movement. Remember that changing your lifestyle or losing weight is not an overnight achievement. It takes time. So, start small instead of getting burned out from going to the gym every day. Take a short walk around your neighborhood. As Hannah Arem, a health researcher at George Washington University, said, “If someone is completely inactive, the best thing they can do is even getting out and taking a walk.” If walks aren’t your thing, check out some 5-minute workouts on YouTube. Ultimately, you must prioritize moving your body, and you will reap those benefits in the long run.

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This article was revised on 2/12/2024.

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