To all those weekend warriors who cram the recommended amount of weekly exercise into just one or two sessions, you're in luck!
Despite the study's limitations, its authors described their findings as "statistically powerful", and said it backed up previous research by Harvard University that tracked 580 people and found a lower death risk among weekend warriors compared to sedentary men.
Tough it is better to exercise on a regular basis, the researchers say that one or two workout sessions could reduce the risk of death as much as regular exercise can.
"The weekend warrior and other physical activity patterns characterized by one or two sessions per week of moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity may be sufficient to reduce risks for all-cause, CVD and cancer mortality regardless of adherence to prevailing physical activity guidelines", the study concludes. The "regularly active" and "weekend warrior" groups met the World Health Organization recommendation - the latter did so in just one or two sessions a week, the former in at least three. Regular exercisers lowered their risk a little more, by 35 percent.
"I would say to those who are already weekend warriors to keep up the good work", lead author on the study, Gary O'Donovan, MD (National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine-East Midlands, Loughborough, England), told TCTMD.
People who cram all their exercise into one or two sessions at the weekend benefit almost as much as those who work out more frequently, researchers say.
Weekend warriors may add nearly as many years to their life span as those who work out all week long, according to research published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.
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Compared with inactive adults, people who get any amount of exercise may live longer, according to the study of middle-aged adults in the United Kingdom and Scotland. To begin with, this was an observational study, so it can't prove a direct link between specific exercise patterns and lower risks of premature death. "This study really confirms that exercise - even if it's just on the weekends - is important, and you can reap a big benefit from that".
But Dr O'Donovan said no-one yet knew the best way of meeting the weekly recommended exercise total.
During the study period, about 8,800 people in the study died, with 2,780 of those deaths coming from cardiovascular disease; 2,526 deaths from cancer; and the rest from other causes.
Note that this observational study in a United Kingdom population suggested that even small amounts of exercise are associated with mortality benefits.
At baseline, 63 per cent of participants were seen as inactive; 3.7 per cent were weekend warriors, and 11.1 per cent were regularly active. Running, walking, dancing like a fool-it doesn't matter.
"The present study suggests that less frequent bouts of activity, which might be more easily fit into a busy lifestyle, offer considerable health benefits", the researchers state in the study.
A journal commentary published with the study called the findings "encouraging news".
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