Question. If you exercise the same amount, time-wise, but change the number of exercise sessions you do each week, does it make a difference to your health? Apparently not, according to the latest findings of a study. The research suggests that it is the quantity that counts, not necessarily the frequency.
The Queen's University in Kingston Ontario, study involved over 2,000 adult participants over a seven day period, using accelerometers to record movement. The research was focused on the link between frequency of exercise and a change in metabolic syndrome. That is, whether or not exercising the same amount, but fewer times, had an impact on the risks associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome rate
There was no significant change in the metabolic syndrome rate for those who exercised 1-4 times a week and those who worked out 5-7 times a week. This was based on more than 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week which is the standard recommendation of weekly exercise. This is in stark contrast to a noted difference in the metabolic risk factors between those who meet the recommendations and those who don't exercise as much.
Less days free? No problem!
So why is this good news for you? If you're one of those people that uses time as an excuse not to work out then you really have no reason not to be doing something at least once or twice a week. It can be difficult for people to fit in a training session most nights of the week but according to the study you don't necessarily need to. If you're short on time each day then limit the frequency you work out but bump up the time so that you're not falling below the ideal.
Fitness to fit your lifestyle
You might need to adapt to a fitness plan, move around your schedule, and explore the most effective way to get in shape. However, there's no reason why your lifestyle, commitments and family cannot shape how you keep fit either. Some people enjoy working in 20 minutes or so of exercise a day but would fewer, yet longer sessions suit you better?
One of the real plus points of these findings is that it supports greater variety for you as an individual. If you're a fan of HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training - then you might be happy to spread out your exercise over short spells more frequently. If you want to build strength or endurance then longer sessions might fit better, without the need to keep this up each day. If you're learning a new skill then there's a real opportunity to use the flexibility these results entail, so that you can fit into a varied exercise and training program.
150 minutes a week!
This is the golden exercise rule, however you are keeping fit and how often. The World Health Organization, as well as official guidelines in such areas as Canada, the USA and the UK, all advocate 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week. If you miss a workout day then don't feel that you can't make this up during your next session. Of course, following a quality fitness strategy is important and not burning yourself out in a mammoth session might be advised. Keep track of your exercise and allow for a flexible approach, without losing sight of how much time you spend actually working up a sweat.