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According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, practicing the recommended levels of weekly physical activity in 1 or 2 weekend sessions does not influence mortality risks.
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This is demonstrated by a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by American researchers.
Atlantic: According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, performing the recommended levels of weekly physical activity in 1 or 2 sessions on the weekend or in several sessions spread over every day of the week does not influence the risk of mortality. While we are regularly told to engage in regular physical activity, what does this study tell us?
Christopher De Jaeger: In all the “health” recommendations, physical activity has an important place. In fact, the human body was not designed for a sedentary lifestyle and many diseases are associated with it: cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, cancers, etc.
But as easy as it is to take medication in case of illness, it is also difficult to engage in regular physical activity if you don’t like sports.
The exercise has two main flaws, at least for people who don’t enjoy doing it. Following current recommendations is time-consuming and tiresome. Therefore, we have a multitude of “good reasons” for not moving or simply giving ourselves the illusion of moving. Everything in our daily life leads us to a sedentary lifestyle and it is difficult to engage in regular activity.
This study, therefore, will appeal to a large number of people, because it seems to show that it is useless “so much” to do sports regularly, since the results are the same if you practice an activity of the same duration only on weekends. In medicine, we have always been attached to the fact that it was necessary to repeat the training regularly, for example, three times a week to have good results instead of once. The “weekend jock” is also considered not to be a true sportsman.
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Many experiments have been done to minimize this time of physical activity. In this study there appears to be no real difference in mortality between the groups that train regularly and those that train on weekends. Therefore, this element is very reassuring for all people who do not have time to train during the week. In fact things are not so simple.
Does 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise really have the same benefits as 75 minutes of intense physical activity?
It is very difficult to demonstrate this with a study of this type, which has many biases. To reach such a conclusion, it would be necessary to carry out a very complete study measuring the muscle mass of people before and after perfectly defined and controlled types of exercise. In addition, all individuals are different depending on their morphology, sex, age, hormonal status, etc. Some need more or less sport to maintain their muscle mass, or achieve certain results.
However, this study was carried out on almost 350,000 people, which allowed us to identify a certain trend. We know perfectly well that sedentary people have a higher risk of suffering from cardiovascular, metabolic and cancerous diseases, and that if they carry out moderate or intense activity they will be protected. Finally, it doesn’t matter if an individual moves a lot or a little, as long as they move.
What are the limitations of this study?
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This study faces several problems.
The first big problem is the average age of the population: 40 years!
This is not an age when one dies of cardiovascular disease or cancer. It would have been much more interesting to observe an older population. For example, 50 or 60, or even 70 years, where precisely all pathologies arise. Therefore, I believe that this is a first major bias that limits the interest of this study.
The other major bias is that this study is based on self-assessment. Self-assessment is extremely misleading. Some will consider the 30 minutes of cycling they do as “intense”, while others will consider the exercise in question as “crap”. Therefore, there are sometimes considerable gaps between people’s feelings and the reality of what they do. We see this daily in my practice.
Finally, looking carefully at the figures, we see that it is still more interesting in terms of mortality to exercise several times than once, even if this difference is little or not significant.
It is also necessary to always keep in mind, in the face of this type of population study that works on averages, that this is only a vision of reality and that the true reality of the individual may not correspond to the average “reality”, which is often forgotten. The important thing is not so much the average, which nevertheless serves to guide us, but the person in front of us. For example, it is obvious that if you are a stressed and somewhat thin person, there is a benefit in relation to relaxation that regular physical activity will bring you. The secretion of hormones also plays an essential role in our well-being. Conversely, if you are overweight, running for long periods is not harmless to your joints. In short, this type of study, based on statistics, is used to identify an average, but it cannot represent all individuals. Applying the results of a population study to subject A can be very good, but it becomes detrimental to subject B.
What are the best exercises to perform to achieve this result? What are the benefits of doing this type of exercise?
Two types of exercises are very important. The first is cardiovascular training. It is an exercise that aims to maintain a certain heart rate for a certain time. Therefore, the intensity factor is essential. Next comes the length of the session and finally the number of sessions per week, ideally 3 per week. Sports such as cycling, elliptical, rowing or swimming are very effective and have positive effects on the functioning of the heart, lungs and brain. But physical activities of the cardio-training type do not contribute significantly to the increase in our muscle mass. For this, it is necessary to resort to bodybuilding that can take multiple aspects. Muscles are a very important element of our health that we often neglect. They are always in activity and the increase in their mass allows us to increase the basic metabolism of our body, thus allowing us to increase our caloric consumption and thus making it possible to reduce our fat mass.