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One of the concerns about being stuck in a chair/couch all day long — due to occupation or character — is that it might be hard to undo the damage done by all that sedentariness. Sit around long enough — four days of serious laziness, say — and you may become relatively immune to the death-delaying benefits of exercise. That bad news courtesy of Akins et al. Doubtless you can eventually work your way back to benefitting from exercise after a laziness binge, but it might be an inefficient, uphill battle.
How many days of laziness are needed to sabotage the effectiveness of your exercise? Research continues, and a 2022 study by Dos Santos et al. is less pessimistic than Akins et al. were back in 2019. Their results give some comfort to weekend warriors, and seem to show that clearly all is not lost if your exercise is concentrated in just a day or two each week.
In other words, you probably don’t have to exercise every day for it to be worthwhile, or even every other day. You can probably even wait for the weekend!
Dos Santos et al. compared mortality (over ten years) in people who exercised 150 minutes per week spread out over just a day or two per week … versus three or more. They found no difference, which suggests that weekend warriorism may not be so bad.
The fairly obvious weakness in the study is that many of the subjects were spreading their exercise out over only a single extra day (“long weekend warriorism”). A more stark comparison — between people who exercise only on Saturdays to people who exercise most days — might have a different result.
The study concluded that “individuals who engage in the recommended levels of physical activity may experience the same benefit whether the sessions are performed throughout the week or concentrated into fewer days.”
Better yet? You may not even need the “recommended levels.” Even regular small doses of exercise may be enough — more about that science soon. This post is an excerpt from an update to this detailed topic guide: The Trouble with Chairs: The science of being sedentary and how much it does (or doesn’t) affect your health and back pain.