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As recent research suggests, either 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of a vigorous workout per week is linked to decreasing the risk of developing an array of diseases and dying at a young age. Common knowledge precipitates that exercise is good for one’s physical, emotional, and mental healths. However, in our day and age of constant questing for the best of everything (like Dev looking for the best tacos in “Master of None”), is paced and moderate exercise better for you than extreme exertion on the weekend?
As a baseline, any exercise is better than no exercise. Noted in Gretchen Reynolds’ New York Times piece about a study conducted by Dr. Gary O’Donovan, a Research Associate at Loughborough University, working out in any quantity lowers “the risk that someone would die from any cause, including heart disease and cancer.” But a push-up here or a block-long sprint there won’t do much good coupled with regular inactivity.
Instead, exercise gently for 150 minutes or work out vigorously for 75 minutes. Examples of moderate workouts include walking quickly, cycling, and other activity that can raise heart rate while still allowing one to converse with others. Intense workouts, on the other hand, include team sports, running, speed cycling, and other activity that elevates heart rate to a height that can hinder conversation.
Gently exercising for 150 minutes throughout the week can be difficult given everyone’s constantly packed schedules. Because of this, it is commonly recommended to split up the time by exercising daily for 30 minutes. Breaking down the time into smaller chunks alleviates the level of commitment to the block sum, and the daily workouts will allow for benefits of the exercise to reveal themselves sooner.
Vigorously working out for 75 minutes per week often occurs in one or two sessions, which likely takes place on the weekend due to commitments throughout the work week. The exercising routine of these weekend warriors often consists of team sports like basketball and soccer, thus allowing for socializing before, during, or after working out with a time constraint that works for the individual.
So which is better?
There is currently no definitive consensus that working out gently for a longer amount of time each week is better than intense exercise for half the amount of time or vice versa. As Dr. O’Donovan says in Ms. Reynolds’ article, “Reductions in risk were similar in the weekend warriors and the regularly active.” When BTRtoday asked how a weekend warrior might augment their baseline fitness, Dr. O’Donovan says that “vigorous-intensity exercise improves aerobic fitness more than the same amount of moderate-intensity exercise.” Working out vigorously those two days per week are, according to Dr. O’Donovan, “sufficient to maintain aerobic fitness.” Between the two types of weekly workouts, weekend warriors have “greater improvements in aerobic fitness” than daily exercisers. Additionally, Dr. O’Donovan suggests that “vigorous-intensity exercise probably offers greater health benefits than moderate-intensity exercise.”
If you’re capable and willing to workout for 75 minutes each week at an intense pace, you might earn more health benefits than exercising moderately throughout the week. Nevertheless, learning how to exercise not only includes what one’s goals are and how one might accomplish them, but also working out regularly throughout the week or on the weekend is a significant lifestyle change. Finding what works best for you will give you the greatest workout and make you feel the healthiest. Beyond encouraging those who do not exercise to begin with, hopefully Dr. O’Donovan’s research will inspire regular gym-goers and exercisers to turn a constructively critical eye to their workout patterns.
As long as you’re exercising, though, you’re already working your way to a stronger, healthier you.