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Good news for the weekend warriors: occasional exercise still boosts health

People who cram all their exercise into the weekend, while sitting at their desk all week, have got the right idea

New research has found that even occasional exercise can keep your body ticking over and the so-called weekend warriors – people who visit the gym on a Friday night, go jogging round the park on a Saturday morning or go for a long brisk walk on Sunday afternoon – are doing enough to stay fit and healthy and stave off serious illness.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Sydney and Loughborough University analysed the health and exercise habits of around 64,000 people aged 40 and over in Scotland and England over a period of 18 years.

Compared with the people who did no exercise at all, the weekend warriors, who typically carried out one or two moderate bursts of activity a week, showed an overall lower risk of developing life-threatening strokes, heart disease and cancer.

The study found that people who exercised on one or two days a week reduced their risk of dying from cancer by 18 per cent and of dying from cardio-vascular disease by a not-insignificant 41 per cent compared with those who were totally inactive.

People who exercised more often – on three days or more per week – lowered their risks by 21 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.

The findings are important, as they confirm the fact that any exercise has significant benefits and that the current government guidelines – that we should all aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week – are correct.

Examples of the kind of exercise needed to accrue the health benefits include cycling, fast walking, and lifting weights. More vigorous activities, such as running or playing tennis, can be for shorter periods of time and still reap the benefits.

The key to staying fit and healthy, according to the experts, is doing ‘meaningful’ exercise on a regular basis, even if this is just for a short period of time once a week.

The national lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England, Justin Varney, said every little counts towards our health goals, although the maximum benefits will be achieved through doing 150 minutes of moderate activity each week.

The message is clear: getting out of your armchair and exercising, even once a week, will do wonders for your health.

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