Adults who do 150 minutes exercise over one or two days get as much health benefit as those who exercise more frequently throughout the week, new research suggests.
It had been thought that people who exercised on a frequent basis may have been healthier than those who exercised once or twice a week.
However, a study has found that 150 minutes of exercise had no extra health benefit if it was condensed into one or two exercise sessions rather than being spread throughout the week.
The study by Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, was led by Dr Ian Janssen and monitored 2,300 adults to see if the frequency of physical activity played a part in reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Same health benefits from infrequent exercise
The scientists split the adults into two groups: those who exercised at least five days a week and those that exercised between one and four days a week.
Dr Janssen said: "The findings indicate that it does not matter how adults choose to accumulate their 150 weekly minutes of physical activity.
"For instance, take someone who did not perform any physical activity on Monday to Friday but was active for 150 minutes over the weekend.
"They would obtain the same health benefits from their activity as someone who accumulated 150 minutes of activity during the week by doing 20 to 25 minutes of activity on a daily basis."
Participants were studied via accelerometers, a small electrical device designed to record a person’s movements.
"The important message is that adults should aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes of weekly physical activity in whatever pattern that works for their schedule," Dr Janssen added.
Previous study suggests just 12 minutes a week
A Norwegian study published in June suggested that only 12 minutes of extreme exercise a week was enough to stay fit.
Scientists said that three four-minute bursts of vigorous physical activity was all that was required to increase oxygen intake levels and lower blood pressure.
The authors of the study said: "A growing body of evidence suggests that exercise training with low-volume but high-intensity may be a time-efficient means to achieve health benefits."
All scientists agree exercise is healthy
While there may be some discrepancy among scientists about how much or how long you should exercise for, most agree that any form of exercise has many health benefits.
These can include reducing the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Advantages of exercise also extend to social and mental benefits and regular activity can improve your mood and boost your immune system or self-esteem.
Some health insurance providers will offer you a discounted gym membership to help you get involved in more physical activities.