Think that you need to hit the gym or the pavement every single day to be healthy? New research says it only takes a couple workouts to reap the rewards.
Calling all weekend warriors: Exercising once or twice a week, say on the weekends, may give you the same health benefits as if you worked out daily, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers looked at nearly 64,000 adults and found those who met the criteria for "active," including weekend warrior types, had 30 percent less risk of death overall than people who exercised less or not at all. OK, so the fact that people who exercise have better health than those who don't isn't exactly shocking information, but what was surprising was that it didn't seem to matter how many days that exercised happened. While many of us have long assumed that daily or consistent workouts give a special boost, apparently when it comes to basic health, bodies don't care as much about consistency as we thought.
So what is this magic "active" number of minutes required to get the basic health benefits? Just 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. You can spread that out over, say, five 30-minute moderate workouts or three 25-minutes intense workouts in a week. Or, according to the study, you can just do one killer workout for 75 minutes on a Saturday and be done with it for the week.
This doesn't mean regular workouts don't have benefits—exercising daily can help you feel less depressed, eat fewer calories, be more creative, focus better, and sleep more soundly that very same day, according to previous research. Rather this new research just means that when it comes to the stuff that will kill you, like heart attacks and cancer, exercise is cumulative, adding up benefits over your lifetime. Of course, this is a general recommendation. How much you need to spend in the gym depends on your health status and fitness goals. Read: If you're looking to get six-pack abs, run a marathon, or run down rolling logs in a lumberjack competition (yeah that's a real thing) you're definitely going to need more consistent workouts.
It's also important not to take this information as license to spend the rest of your week bingeing on Netflix and cookies. Moving daily, even if it's just doing household chores or running errands, is important to physical and mental health. (You can always throw in one or two of these quickie 5-minute cardio bursts.) Not to mention that doing a killer 75-minute bootcamp class after doing nothing the rest of the week may make you feel like you're really going to die!
But hey, we live in the real world—the one filled with head colds, late work projects, flat tires, and snowstorms —not the Insta-world of perfect yoga poses on beaches. You gotta live your life! So if all you can do is fit in a class or two on the weekends, know that you're still doing your body a world of good!