fitness

Which is better: moderate exercise or frequent exercise?

We all have that one friend whose seven-mornings-a-week workout routine puts yours to shame.

Even when you have the best of intentions, it’s hard to maintain that level of frequency when you’ve got work, social and family commitments to juggle. Some weeks, it’s only possible to squeeze in one or two decent fitness sessions.

However, the findings of a new study might alleviate any guilt you’re feeling about your moderate approach to exercise.

RELATED: Running too hard is worse for you than no exercise at all. Slow coaches, rejoice!

The study of UK women, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, sought to figure out whether out the frequency and duration of exercise has any bearing on a person’s risk of vascular health issues. Generally, physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, strokes and blood clots.

Over a nine-year period, researchers tracked the vascular health of more than one million women aged between 50 and 64. The participants were quizzed about their exercise habits — how often and how hard they worked out — and other personal factors. (Post continues after gallery.)

It comes as a surprise to approximately nobody that the women who exercised two to three times a week had a lower incidence of vascular health issues than those who were inactive. Physical activity is good for your body and your mind, period.

Yet a higher frequency of strenuous exercise, defined in this instance as “any work or exercise causing sweating or a fast heartbeat”, didn’t seem to offer any further health benefits for women than a moderate amount of exercise. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, four to seven sessions of strenuous exercise per week was associated with a higher incidence of adverse vascular effects.

RELATED: 8 ridiculously fun ways to work out. This is as non-exercisey as exercise gets.

However, before you go forth and cancel that boxing class (you’ve been looking for an excuse, haven’t you?) it’s worth remembering that every body is programmed to comfortably tolerate a different amount of exercise, based on a number of factors. So the results of this study might not ring true for you and your body.

“That doesn’t mean that if you’re thin and have been exercising for many years, you’re immune to the risks of overdoing it,” Runner’s World reporter Alex Hutchinson writes.

“But it does explain why studies of more active people, like the National Runners’ Health Study, seem to show health benefits that continue to increase even at much higher levels of mileage. And it should make you think twice about believing that there’s an arbitrary limit on how much exercise your body can safely handle.”

Related: How I tricked myself into becoming a “running person”.

How often do you work out each week?