Remember all those healthy New Year resolutions about going to the gym, walking to the shops and always taking the stairs at work?
Well, if you still have pangs of guilt at how your best intentions failed to last the distance, here is some good news.
The health effects of missing out on daily exercise and sitting around in the office all week can be cancelled out by just one workout a week.
The one snag is that the weekly exercise session – such as a brisk walk or bike ride – has to be an exhausting two and a half hours long.
Researchers found those who managed 150 minutes of exercise on one or two days of the week were just as healthy as others doing the same amount over a longer period.
Dr Ian Janssen, who led the research, said: ‘The findings indicate it does not matter how adults choose to accumulate their 150 weekly minutes of physical activity.’
Guidelines usually recommend adults perform moderate to vigorous physical activity on most or all days of the week for a total of 150 minutes, with no advice for frequency.
So Dr Janssen and colleagues at Queen’s University, Toronto, attached a motion detector to the waists of 2,324 men and woman aged between 18 and 64.
The tiny electrical actical accelerometer, about the size of a small package of matches, records how much a person moves every minute.
The adults who met the advice of more than 150 minutes a week of aerobic activity were divided into those who exercised on five to seven or one to four of the days.
Physical exams and blood tests on the participants then measured their ‘metabolic syndrome’ which indicates risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Those who were ‘infrequently active’ were in no greater danger of developing these illesses than their ‘frequently active’ counterparts, according to the study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
Dr Janssen said: ‘For instance, someone who did not perform any physical activity on Monday to Friday but was active for 150 minutes over the weekend would obtain the same health benefits from their activity as someone who accumulated 150 minutes of activity over the week by doing 20-25 minutes of activity on a daily basis.
‘The important message is adults should aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes of weekly physical activity.’