We’ve all heard the American Heart Association’s recommendations: Workout at moderate intensity for 30 minutes, 5 days per week. This is the minimum amount of physical activity required to maintain a healthy weight and to keep your heart working properly. But setting aside even just 30 minutes every day, while trying to juggle everything else in your life may be a daunting task for some people. New research, though, gives us a clearer understanding of how much exercise we really need and, more practically, how we can better fit it in to our schedule.
Published in the July edition of the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, the study set out to answer the question of frequency’s role in maintaining a healthy body composition. To understand the issue better, 2324 active adults were asked to wear accelorometers to measure their movements for one week. Out of that initial group, those who were active for more than a total of 150 minutes during the week were split into two more groups: People who spread their activity over five to seven days, as per the AHA recommendations, and people who concentrated their activity into one to four days.
Once the numbers were crunched, the researchers found something interesting: the health benefits were the same regardless of how people chose to distribute those 150 minutes of activity.
What This Means For You
Think about the personal application of these findings. This study suggests that you could skip your workouts all week long, as long as on the weekend you fit in at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-to-vigorous activity.
Knowing this, you have much more flexibility in scheduling your workouts. Consider writing down your weekly schedule, starting with family and other obligations, and then find a total of 150 minutes scattered throughout the week.
Keep in mind, though, that this amount of exercise is the minimum recommended to ward off metabolic syndrome. This condition is really just a cluster of symptoms, like increased blood pressure, high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels, that work together to contribute to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The 150 minutes per minutes will be just enough to keep those systems and, by extension, your heart, working properly.
To reach more extensive fitness goals, however, more specialized workouts will be necessary. If, for example, you’re training for a marathon, 150 minutes of moderate exercise will not be enough to help you reach that goal.
For many people, though, who are simply looking to maintain their health, this study brings some much needed freedom to their schedule.