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Weekend-only exercise has significant health benefits, study suggests

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People who meet recommended physical activity targets by cramming in exercise over the weekend gain similar health benefits to those who spread their fitness over a number of days during the week, according to researchers.

The study by Loughborough University, in collaboration with Harvard University and the University of Sydney, found that ‘weekend warriors’ lowered their risk of death by a similar amount to those who met exercise targets during the whole week over a number of sessions.

Weekend warriors are those who fit the recommended amount of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week in one or two sessions.

Lead author of the study, Dr Gary O’Donovan, analysed data from 63,591 adults who responded to English and Scottish household-based surveys from 1994 to 2012. The study's researchers looked at associations between the weekend warrior and other physical activity patterns and the risk for death from all causes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer.

Among the surveyed adults - all aged 40 and above - there were 8,802 deaths from all causes, 2,780 deaths from CVD and 2,526 from cancer.

Those who met the physical activity target by exercising through the week had a 35 per cent lower risk of death from all causes than the inactive adults, with the risk of death from CVD and cancer down 41 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

The research found similar health benefits for weekend warriors who also met the physical activity target. Their risk of death from all causes was 30 per cent lower than the inactive adults, with the risk of death from CVD and cancer down by 40 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

The research, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, was carried out to learn more about weekend warrior physical activity patterns.

Dr O’Donovan said: "The weekend warrior and other physical activity patterns characterised 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."

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People who meet recommended physical activity targets by cramming in exercise over the weekend gain similar health benefits to those who spread their fitness over a number of days during the week, according to researchers.
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