Whether people exercise at the weekend or regularly throughout the week makes no difference to the benefits of being active, new research suggests.
The study indicates that clocking up physically active minutes is more important than when the exercise takes place.
Researchers say the findings are important for people with fewer opportunities for daily or regular physical activity during their working week.
A study of 350,978 adults in America did not find any significant difference in death rates between “weekend warriors” – those who pack in their exercise at the end of the week – and regularly active people.
Compared with those who were physically inactive, both weekend warriors and the regularly active had lower death rates.
This large study suggests that, when it comes to exercise, it doesn’t matter when you do it. The most important thing is that physical activity is undertaken in the first place
Joanne Whitmore, British Heart Foundation
The study suggests that adults who undertake 150 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, per week may experience similar health benefits whether the sessions are spread throughout the week or concentrated into a weekend.
Researchers came to their conclusions after examining the association of weekend warriors and other patterns of leisure-time physical activity with deaths from all causes, and deaths from specific causes.
The findings have been published in the Jama Internal Medicine journal.
Joanne Whitmore, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “This large study suggests that, when it comes to exercise, it doesn’t matter when you do it.
“The most important thing is that physical activity is undertaken in the first place.
“Whether you cram your exercise in on the weekend or spread it across the week, aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week.
“Exercise can improve your health, reducing your risk of heart and circulatory diseases like heart attack and stroke.
“Moderate intensity activities make you breathe harder and make your heartbeat faster than usual, but you should still be able to have a conversation whilst doing them.
“Types of activities can include brisk walking, cycling or swimming, and these activities can be broken up into shorter bursts through the day to make exercise more manageable.”