Great news, weekend warriors: According to new research, you’re probably in much better shape than you think you are!
Health experts recommend about 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous, heart-pumping exercise each week. But many of us struggle to fit even short workouts into our busy workweeks. However, a new study suggests that it doesn’t matter when or how often you exercise, as long as you do.
The results of the study, which were recently published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, show that people who tend to pack their weekly exercise into one or two days on the weekend get nearly the same health benefits as those who exercise daily. The researchers also found that how often a person exercises makes little difference in how long he or she lives.
Gary O’Donovan, a research associate in the Exercise As Medicine program at Loughborough University in England, and his colleagues analyzed surveys of more than 63,000 people in England and Scotland. Subjects who reported exercising only one or two days a week had 30% to 34% less risk of dying early from any cause than people who were inactive. People who reported exercising most days of the week, however, had only 35% less risk — a barely noticable difference.
Exercise was also effective at reducing the risk of heart-related death. The people who exercised regularly and those who only exercised a couple days a week both cut their risk of it by about 40%. It’s a similar story regarding the risk of death from cancer. Those who exercised—whether it was every day or only a few days—lowered their risk of dying from cancer by 18% to 21% compared to those who didn’t exercise.
“The main point our study makes is that frequency of exercise is not important,” O’Donovan told TIME. “There really doesn’t seem to be any additional advantage to exercising regularly. If that helps people, then I’m happy.”
He went on: “This is new evidence, and perhaps guidelines have to be revisited as new evidence emerges,” says O’Donovan. The bottom line: Get your weekly exercise in, but don't stress about working out every day!