“Some” is better than “None”

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Volume 13, Number 4

Although the assertion that physical activity is good for health gets little argument, there continues to be much debate over how much and what type of exercise is best. Answering the “how much” and “what type” questions has implications both for public health recommendations and for the fitness industry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults between the ages of 18 – 64 should meet one of the following recommendations for physical activity:

1) 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) each week and muscle strengthening activities (affecting all major muscle groups) on 2 or more days each week; or

2) 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) each week and muscle strengthening activities as noted above; or

3) an equivalent mix of the above-described aerobic activity and muscle strengthening activities as noted above.

The CDC reports that 49% of adults in the United States are meeting one of the aerobic activity targets, but only 21% are meeting both the aerobic activity and muscle strengthening targets. The most commonly cited barrier to exercise is lack of time.

Because finding time to exercise during a typical work week is a challenge for some people, there are individuals who only exercise during the weekend (i.e., “weekend warriors”). Interestingly, a study published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine found that persons meeting one of the aerobic exercise targets with only weekend exercise (either 1 day or 2 days) had a 30% lower risk of death (from all causes) than persons who were inactive. Of note, those who were “insufficiently active” (physically active but not meeting the targets) had a similar (31%) lower risk of death, while those meeting the aerobic targets with 3 or more exercise sessions per week had a 35% lower risk of death. While more (and regular) exercise may be incrementally better, the conclusion is that some exercise is substantially better than none.

An important caveat to note is that “some” exercise does not appear to offset the increased mortality risk that comes with extensive sitting. An analysis published in The Lancet last year found that 60-75 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every day was necessary to eliminate risk associated with extensive sitting. This is three times the amount of aerobic exercise recommended by the CDC.

To decrease the risk of death from any cause, sitting less and moving more is without debate. Some exercise is clearly better than none, although regular exercise is incrementally better.


Paul J. Hershberger, Ph.D.

… is a clinical health psychologist. He is Professor and Director of the Division of Behavioral Health, Department of Family Medicine, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.




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phone: (937) 734-6851

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