13 Jan

Exercise? Really?

We Love Our Hearts, but What About Our Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes?

While the expert recommendation has long been 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week to stay healthy, does it matter if these minutes are crammed into one or two days or spread throughout the week? A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked into this, and Time and the Toronto Sun recently shared the findings.

I recommend reading these articles, as they do a nice job outlining the study’s results (and pointing out some limitations) and what they could mean. The conclusion is that “weekend warriors” who pack the recommended (or close to) amount of exercise into 1-2 sessions a week lower their risk of dying from any cause, including cardiac disease, almost as much as those who exercise more regularly.

That is definitely great news for our hearts and longevity, but as a physical therapist, I thought, “but what about our musculoskeletal system?” I winced a little when I read the author Gary O’Donovan’s comment in Time, “The main point our study makes is that frequency of exercise is not important.”

I would argue that while the frequency of exercise was perhaps shown to not be “important” in determining quantity of life, what about risk of injury? We often see “weekend warriors” in the clinic who have injured themselves during an intense workout class or basketball game. The rest of the week, their body is mostly static – sitting at their desk, in meetings, in the car, or a little better, standing at their desk.

Of course, weekend warriors aren’t the only ones who get injuries, but it’s a lot to ask of your body to go from being static for the majority of the week to completing an hour-long spin class, boot camp class, or 2-hour tennis match. So, even if you aren’t hitting the gym every day, try to get up throughout the day and do something a little active each day (that includes a brisk walk, which the study included).

And remember, there are a lot of other health benefits, including psychological benefits and a higher quality of life, from more regular exercise.

By Leigh Welsh, Doctor or Physical Therapy