Study Suggests the Least Exercise People Can Do for Health

2 min read

March 28, 2023 -- For people who are always looking to know the least amount of exercise they can get away with and still be healthy, a new study might have an answer.

It found that people who take 8,000 steps a day once or twice per week get almost all the cardiovascular health benefits as people who do it almost every day.

How far does 8,000 steps get you? About 4 miles.

“The study’s findings suggest that for adults who face difficulties in exercising regularly, achieving the recommended daily steps only a couple days a week may have meaningful health benefits,” the authors wrote. 

The findings could have potential to improve public health with step-based goals, two medical doctors wrote in a commentary published with the study.

“A popular but controversial concept over the past 3 decades is the ‘weekend warrior’ exercise pattern, which involves low-frequency but high-volume physical activity sessions done in condensed amounts of time,” they wrote.

The new study shows that the “weekend warrior” approach may “provide meaningful protection from cardiovascular death and premature mortality,” the doctors say in the commentary.

In the study, researchers looked at step data from trackers that about 3,100 people wore as part of a large national survey. People wore the devices for a week. They were divided into groups based on whether they took 8,000 steps on zero days, one or two days, or three to seven days.

Researchers followed them for a decade, tallying deaths and cardiovascular health.

People who took 8,000 steps one or two days had a 15% lower risk of mortality during the following decade than those who didn’t do it at all. Those who did it three to seven days had a reduced risk of 16.5%

Death from cardiovascular disease didn’t change much among the two non-zero groups, either: People who got 8,000 steps once or twice a week, 8.1`%; those stepping that much three to seven days, 8.4%