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'Weekend warriors' who don't exercise during the week can still lose weight, research suggests

'Weekend warriors' who don't exercise during the week can still lose weight, research suggests
  • Exercising on the weekends may help you lose weight just as much as weekday workouts.

  • A new study found it doesn't matter when you work out if you aim for 75-150 minutes a week.

You don't have to hit the gym every day to burn fat and lose weight — getting some exercise on the weekends works just as well, new research suggests.

So-called "weekend warriors" who fit in a few hours of physical activity one to two days a week are just as likely to have a healthy weight and lower body fat as people who exercise more often but for the same total duration, according to a study published February 20 in the journal Obesity.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences examined data from more than 9,600 adults aged 20 to 59, comparing their physical activity habits with body fat measurements. They wanted to analyze whether how often you exercise makes a difference in weight loss and body fat if the total number of minutes is the same — the first study of its kind to do so.

Current exercise guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (like brisk walking, light biking, or household chores) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise (such as playing sports, hiking, or heavy lifting). You can also do a combination of both.

The researchers found that people who met those recommendations had lower body fat and a trimmer waist than their sedentary peers, regardless of whether they worked out throughout the week or concentrated their activity in one or two days.

Longer, less frequent exercise sessions may be useful for people who want to lose weight but struggle to find time for a workout on a busy schedule. According to Lihua Zhang, coauthor of the study and healthcare scientist at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, it could be particularly helpful for people with desk jobs.

"Those people are struggling to catch up in their exercise plan in daily life to offset the hazard of a sedentary lifestyle but have less free time to get to the gym," Zhang said in a press release. "Our study could offer them an alternative choice to keep fit."

Even better, previous evidence suggests longer, less frequent exercise sessions offer other health benefits, reducing the risk of early death.

One catch is that if you want to work out less, you may have to up the intensity. The researchers in the latest study found people who worked out in longer weekend sessions also tended to exercise harder. They also managed to go above and beyond the minimum in total weekly exercise, logging an average of more than 200 minutes instead of just 150.

Activities like hiking or biking could be ideal for such weekend workouts, Zhang added. Rucking, an increasingly popular workout style that involves carrying a weighted pack, can also be an efficient way to lose weight while building muscle at the same time.

More research is needed to better understand the best way to get the most benefits from exercise if you're strapped for time.

However, we know that every little bit of exercise counts, and starting somewhere can pay off for your long-term health even if all you do is add a long walk to your Sunday afternoon.

"On a high level, this study reaffirms the old adage about physical activity and health: any activity is better than no activity," Dr. Beverly Tchang, a professor at Weill Cornell Medicine who was not involved in the study, said in the press release.

Read the original article on Business Insider