I’ve known a lot of people who take an "all-or-nothing" approach to their health. If they succumb to the temptation of a doughnut in the morning, they throw up their hands and have a burger and fries instead of a salad for lunch and a big bowl of ice cream after dinner. Or if they oversleep on Monday and don’t make it to the gym, they decide not to go for the rest of the week.
On paper, this attitude seems silly. But it’s a trap many of us fall into. Once we break our "perfect" streak, all bets are off. However, new research from the University of Sydney reminds us that we need to avoid this trap, especially when it comes to exercise. These researchers have found that even a little bit of exercise can have a big payoff for our health.
Plenty of people just can’t seem to find time to work out during the week, but they hit the gym on Saturday and Sunday. To the "all-or-nothing" crowd, this may seem like a waste. But according to the researchers, it’s not. They found that exercising just once or twice a week lowers risk of death from all causes and particularly from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Even a little bit of exercise can help you lose weight and keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in a healthy range. This significantly increases your chances of staying healthy.
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The World Health Organization recommends either 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity exercise for adults. You can also do a combination of moderate- and high-intensity exercise to reach an equivalent amount of activity.
I know that sounds like a lot, but if you stick with high-intensity exercise, you just need 15 minutes a day. I like high-intensity interval training because it’s both efficient and effective. I’ve written before about various routines you can do. Most of us have 15 minutes a day we can devote to an intense workout. But if not, keep in mind that just two 20-minute sessions on the weekend will get you over halfway to the target number. That might not be perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing. So if being a "weekend warrior" is all you can manage right now, keep it up. You’re still fighting off cancer, cardiovascular disease, and a host of other ailments.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD