According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the minimal weekly level of leisure time exercise for adults is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Most studies had examined the benefits of such exercise spread across 3 or more days per week.
In a study of over 55,000 adults, Lee et al evaluated the benefits of running on mortality. The participants had a mean age of 44 and mean follow-up of 15 years. Runners had a 30% lower all-cause mortality and 45% lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality compared to non-runners. Runners lived on average 3 years longer. Of interest, running distance, time, frequency and pace did not significantly affect the mortality. Even running slowly (< 6 minutes/mile) 1-2 times per week for a total time of < 51 minutes was associated with mortality benefit. In fact, 5-10 minutes every day at slow speeds had mortality benefit.
In a more recent;y published study, researchers in England found that “weekend warrior” mode for just 1 or 2 sessions per week lowered all-cause mortality risk, CVD mortality risk and cancer mortality risk. There were almost 64,000 adult respondents, all over age 40, during 561,159 person-years of follow-up. The mean age was 58.6 years.
Participants were divided into four groups: (1) “Inactive” (no reported moderate or vigorous activity); (2) “Insufficiently active” (< 150 minutes moderate or < 75 minutes vigorous activity weekly); (3) “Regularly active” (meeting WHO recommendations with ≥ 150 minutes moderate or ≥ 75 minutes vigorous activity weekly over ≥ 3 sessions); or (4) “Weekend warrior” (≥ 150 minutes moderate or ≥ 75 minutes vigorous activity weekly but over only 1-2 sessions). Of the total participants, 62.8% were “inactive,” 22.4% were “insufficiently active,” 11.1% were “regularly active,” and 3.7% were “weekend warriors.” The BMI was similar for all groups. Occupational and domestic physical activity were not included. Weekend warriors were equally likely to exercise in 1 versus 2 sessions. Weekend warriors were more likely to be men and, as expected, tended to have more vigorous level of activity.
Compared the Inactive group (1), there was a significant reduction of all-cause mortality (30%), CVD death (40%), and cancer death risk (18%) amongst the Weekend warriors. There were similar risk reductions for group 2 and group 3 compared to group 1. Thus, even just 1 or 2 days of moderate to vigorous activity or exercise is sufficient to reduce risks for all-cause mortality, CVD mortality, and cancer mortality. Although men tended to be “weekend warriors,” there was similar benefit for women.
What do these studies tell us? Even “insufficient” levels of activity or “weekend warrior” mode are associated with lower risks for all-cause mortality, CVD death, and cancer death compared to those adults who get no moderate to vigorous activity. In fact, just 5-10 minutes every day at slow speeds had mortality benefit.