A recent study found no significant difference in death rates between adults who exercised once or twice a week versus three or more times a week, as long as they exercised moderately for a total of 150 minutes or vigorously for 75 minutes per week (JAMA Intern Med, July 5, 2022;182(8):840-848).
This study followed 350,978 U.S. adults for more than 10 years. The participants reported their activity levels and were divided into an active group and an inactive group. The active group was subdivided into those who did all of their exercise in one or two sessions (“Weekend Warriors”) and those who spread their exercising out over three or more sessions per week. There were 21,898 deaths during the follow-up period, including 4130 from heart disease and 6034 from cancer. The two active groups had lower all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates than the inactive group, which suggests that people who exercise only on weekends can gain the same health benefits as one who spreads out the same amount of exercise throughout the week.
Many studies show that a regular exercise program helps to prolong lives by preventing and treating high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, strokes, certain cancers and more (J of Aging Research, July 1, 2012;Article 243958). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that “Each week adults should obtain 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two sessions of muscle strengthening activity” (CDC Physical Activity Guidelines, February 2018).
Everyone who is able should try to exercise moderately for a total of at least 150 minutes or vigorously for 75 minutes per week. I recommend that you exercise every day if you can, but you will get plenty of benefit on whatever schedule works best for you.