Frequency of exercise. Does it matter?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Australian Department of Health (DoHA) recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week as the guideline to health. The recommendation goes further to indicate this should ideally be done for around 30 minutes over 5 days per week.

150 minutes is deemed a guideline, as it’s a target that many Australians should be able to (but don’t) meet. Other research goes on to indicate that 150 minutes of exercise per week is great! But more is better. Although if someone was to tell you, you should do 300 minutes per week of exercise for even better results, would that turn you off completely if you couldn’t get there? Some is always better than none at all! 150 minutes per week (30 minutes over 5 days) is seen as an achievable benchmark for many Australian’s health.  

What if you can’t get to exercise 5 days per week, but are able to get 150 minutes per week over 2 or 3 days? Does this count? Will this be enough to get the same benefit?

Simple answer: The research says yes! There is no significant difference between achieving it in 3 or in the currently recommended 5 days.

The researchers examined data on 2,325 adults throughout Canada to find out whether physical activity frequency impacts on the risk of metabolic syndromes;

What is ‘metabolic syndrome?’

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself, but a collection of risk factors for that often occur together. A person is classed as having metabolic syndrome when they have any three or more of:

  • Central (abdominal) obesity – excess fat in and around the stomach (abdomen)
  • Raised blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High blood triglycerides
  • Low levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL) – the ‘good’ cholesterol
  • Impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or diabetes. IFG occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

The research paper states:

“The findings indicate that it does not matter how adults choose to accumulate their 150 weekly minutes of physical activity.For instance, someone who did not perform any physical activity on Monday to Friday but was active for 150 minutes over the weekend would obtain the same health benefits from their activity as someone who accumulated 150 minutes of activity over the week by doing 20-25 minutes of activity on a daily basis.”

The researchers divided the participants into two groups (both targeting 150 minutes per week):

  • Group One – Did exercise at least five days a week
  • Group Two – They exercised 1-4 days per week

The reseachers found there was no significant difference between groups.

“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.”

The full paper can be found below.


Aaron King

B.App.Sci (Sp&ExSci) ESSAM AEP

Exercise Physiologist

ASK Health Solutions

Leave a Reply