There is good news for those of us who struggle with the #bring it, #own it #slay it world of nauseating fitness hashtags and sweaty sex faces on social media.

It turns out that to stay reasonably fit and to stay healthy, does not require enormous sacrifice or brawn.

Science is on your side, fellow slackers, because while most of us are failing in our 2017 resolution to attend the gym four times a week, the health research, when we turn down the dial on all the wellness quackery, says that less may be more.

Or at least: a moderate amount may be good enough.


A UK study released in early January found that one or two robust exercise sessions per week might be enough to reduce health risks in men and women.

The study of more than 60,000 adults in England and Scotland found that these so-called "weekend warriors" lowered their risk of death by a similar amount to those who exercised regularly throughout the week.

Exercise physiologist Jennifer Smallridge said that meeting weekly exercise targets - The World Health Organization recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity - was ideal.

"But twice a week is still really beneficial to the heart and it may not mean you lose a lot of weight but you can maintain a certain level of health and fitness this way," Ms Smallridge said.

"I wouldn't want this kind of research to mean people cut back on exercise, but if you're going from very little exercise to two full workouts a week then that is going to have a very positive impact on your body."

The Weekend Warrior study is far from the only one casting doubt on the go-hard-or-go-home fitness ethos.

A French study, published in June 2016 in the European Society of Cardiology journal, concluded that fifteen minutes of daily exercise is associated with a 22 per cent lower risk of death.

"We found that the low level of activity, which is half the recommended amount, was associated with a 22 per cent reduced risk of death in older adults compared with those who were inactive," said the study's author Dr David Hupin. "This level of activity equates to a 15-minute brisk walk each day."


An ACC Sports and Exercise Cardiology Leadership Council study, published in the American College of Cardiology in January last year, found small amounts of physical activity, even standing, still significantly lowers the mortality risk in different populations around the globe.

"Increasing the amount of moderate-intensity exercise a person engages in results in increased reductions in cardiovascular disease mortality; however, the reductions in cardiovascular mortality benefits from vigorous-intensity exercise do level out at a certain point," the study authors noted.

Even if you're trying to reach peak physical fitness, you don't need to spend an hour at the gym to achieve it.

Many exercise scientists champion the merits of HIIT, or high intensity interval training, which involves short bursts of intense activity followed by rest or recovery periods.
Ben Sharpe is a strength and conditioning coach within the AFL, and a fan of HIIT.

"There is some evidence that higher-intensity training or intense one-off bursts of activity stimulate the cells in a way that a more moderate workout doesn't and can be better for things such as fat loss and aerobic levels," Mr Sharpe said.

"And the thing is, the more intense the period of work, the shorter the workout can be."
Ms Smallridge agreed, but added that people needed to ensure the intense periods of exercise were suitably intense. "We're kind to ourselves when we work out and we need to make sure the workout is uncomfortable at some point," she said.

"But if you are riding a bike and do 15 seconds of intensity followed by a 15-second recovery period, where you're just turning over the wheels, and you do this workout for 10 minutes then you will burn as much as if you had ridden at a consistent pace for 30 minutes."

Ms Smallridge also said people were starting to cotton on to the compounding benefits of incidental exercise - taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking instead of driving, standing and moving about the office instead of sitting for long periods.

"Walking is beneficial for so many different aspects of fitness. It builds bone density, and it builds tolerance to more intense exercises at the gyms," she said.
"It's the first prescription in getting healthy."