Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death as we grow older. If you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, would you do it?

Staying active and incorporating exercise into your lifestyle has been associated with reducing heart disease. However, many people can’t seem to find the time to do it. How about if you could exercise just once a week for improving your heart would you do it?

For best heart health, most authorities recommend that you exercise vigorously for 20 to 30 minutes a day for 4 to 5 times a week. Even more is okay and may be beneficial. If you can do this, definitely keep doing it. If you can exercise to meet these standards, you are improving the health of your heart, your brain, and essentially your total body health.

There are a plethora of studies support the concept that exercising regularly improves your health. But supposed you just don’t have that much time to exercise the recommended amount of exercise. There are studies that suggest that you can still receive the benefits from exercise by exercising much less, even once a week if you do it correctly: it must be done vigorously.

Can You Exercise At least Once a Week?

A recent study in the British journal of Sports Medicine in 2018 showed that running definitely decreases your risk of all-cause cardiovascular and cancer mortality.[1] They analyzed 14 studies and tracked the health of 232,149 people over time. Research was carried out all over the world, including Australia, Austria, Finland and Thailand. People were followed for up to 35 years.

They found that any amount of running at any pace appeared to lower the risk of death from all causes for both men and women by 27%. Cardiovascular disease death rate reduction was 30% and cancer death risk was lowered 23%, compared to not running.

What was so interesting about this study was that, when the data was analyzed, there was no significant dose-response difference. In other words, you could get similar results whether you ran weekly or daily, at a real fast pace or a moderate pace, and the total amount of running varied too, but any type still provided benefits.

Thus, can you imagine you running just once a week for less than 50 minutes at a speed of around 6 mph, and still get this benefit of a healthier heart and less cancer? Essentially this is what this study is concluding. According to this study, you can significantly lower your risk of death from all causes by doing whatever exercise activity you can do during the week, as long as you do it vigorously and for at least an hour a week.

What’s Your Situation?

You may have to wake up early, drive half hour or an hour to work every day of the week; drive back home at the end of the day for the same time, and when you arrive home you’re too tired to exercise. Weekends, however, may be your savior. Now, with the evidence from this study, you don’t have to feel guilty that you can only get your exercise activities for your health just during your weekends.

Although this study concentrated on running, you most likely can get the same benefits by doing other types of exercise. Supposing you may have a knee injury or other injury that prevents you from running.  Replace the running with riding a stationary bike or an elliptical, or swimming? Most likely you could receive similar benefits from these activities as you would from running.

Many people do brisk walking, which is around 2.5 to 4 mph. This is probably not vigorous enough. Most people don’t increase their heart rate activity adequately just doing this. But if that’s all you can do, modify it. Doing upper body exercise as the same time as lower body exercise has been shown to increase heart rate activity better than just walking briskly, so try that if you can’t jog or run due to an injury.

This study was an observational study only and therefore cause and effect cannot be established with such studies. But the point is that any type of vigorous exercise at least once a week is probably very beneficial for your help to decrease your risk of dying from heart disease and cancers.


The authors of this study concluded, “Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity.” Any type of good physical most likely will significantly lower your risk of death from all causes.

Thus, if you are just a weekend warrior and strive to exercise at least during weekends when you have more time, realize that you’re still doing a good job of decreasing your risks of developing heart disease and cancers. So go for it!


[1] Pedisic Z, Shrestha N, Kovalchik S, et alIs running associated with a lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and is the more the better? A systematic review and meta-analysisBritish Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 04 November 2019. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100493