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Why Exercising Only 2 Days a Week Is All You Need, Science Says

New research indicates that you don't need to get a workout in every day.

We're all well aware that regular exercise is essential for good health. To get a workout in, some people will wake up at 5 a.m. every day, or make the gym their first stop on the way home from work. But if neither of those options appeals during the busy work week, you may be in luck. New research reveals that daily workouts may not be necessary, and that exercising just two days a week could provide the health benefits you're looking for. Read on to learn more about the latest findings.

RELATED: Why Walking Only 3,867 Steps a Day Is All You Need, Science Says.

Many people struggle to find time to work out.

business man checking in to a hotel.

Important or not, there are number of people in the U.S. who admit to not working out. A 2021 survey from Gymless found that 39.4 percent of adults nationwide say they don't exercise every week. These individuals often point to the same problem: a lack of time.

In fact, a different 2021 survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Gympass found that while 79 percent of respondents said they always feel happier when they have a regular exercise routine, 48 percent said that they are so busy with work that they don't have time to implement one.

"Exercising is one of the most important lifestyle changes we can make to become happier, healthier and more productive," Marco Crespo, the U.S. CEO of Gympass, said in a statement. "Yet employees across the U.S. are finding it increasingly difficult to include physical activity in their lives."

But what if you didn't need to take time out of the work week to benefit your health?

RELATED: 8 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Take a Daily Walk.

A recent study says you may only need to exercise two days a week.

A middle-aged man and woman, both with gray hair, exercise outside. They're stretching doing lunges.
Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock

A July study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association sought to determine whether or not people benefited from only working out one to two days a week. To find out, researchers analyzed accelerometer-based physical activity data from 89,573 individuals.

Their findings indicated that this "weekend warrior" pattern of physical activity did provide similar cardiovascular benefits to those from more evenly distributed physical activity. This included similarly lower risks of incident atrial fibrillation, myocardial infarction, heart failure, and stroke.

"Increased activity, even when concentrated within 1 to 2 days each week, may be effective for improving cardiovascular risk profiles," the researchers stated.

RELATED: The 50 Best 5-Minute Exercises Anyone Can Do.

It is recommended you get at least 150 minutes in every week.

Shot of a senior man standing alone outside and checking his watch after going for a run

The study was centered around general heath recommendations in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans indicate that adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense physical activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity.

With that in mind, the researchers compared three groups of people: active weekend warriors (people who got 150 or more minutes of exercise in one to two days a week), active regular (people who got 150 or more minutes of exercise each week but not concentrated in just two days), and inactive (people who did not get 150 or more minutes of exercise each week).

The study proved that those who fell in either active category saw improvement in their heart health that those in the inactive group did not.

"I think it's empowering to say it doesn't matter so much how you get it. The important thing is that you do get it," study leader Shaan Khurshid, MD, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CBS News. "As a physician, there's frequently kind of a rule of thumb that we say, you know, 30 minutes, five days a week. It makes sense in certain schedules, but that is also very difficult to achieve for other people who only have the weekend available or only have one or two days a week."

Some experts still caution against cramming it all into two days.

woman jumping while she exercises outside
BGStock72 / Shutterstock

If you have the time, experts like John Tabacco, an internal medicine and sports medicine physician in Washington, who was not involved in the study, still recommend getting more frequent exercise during the week—even if it's in small increments.

"The 20- to 30-minute walk or jog daily has been shown to lead to better outcomes as far as the ability to handle psychological stress and difficult situations, and even just overall feeling better," Tabacoo told Today. "The endorphins we get from daily exercise is a positive thing and leads to a higher quality of life."

If you are going to try cramming your recommended 150 minutes per week into two days, Tabacco said it is also important to be cautious.

"You don't want to have five days of being completely sedentary and then try to run a marathon on the weekends," he warned.

In fact, Keith Diaz, an exercise physiologist and an associate professor of behavioral medicine at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, who was also not involved in the study, told NBC News that this type of weekend exercise program is something you need to build up to over time in order to avoid hurting yourself.

"The biggest concern is overuse injuries," Diaz explained. "You can't go from zero to 60 in two days. There are plenty of weekend warriors with no injuries but their bodies have acclimated to it."

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Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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