Exercising Only 1 to 2 Days a Week Can Help You Lose Weight

Exercising Only 1 to 2 Days a Week Can Help You Lose Weight
  • A new study has found that working out once or twice a week can produce weight loss.
  • The study found that those who condense their fitness regimen into one or two sessions per week could achieve weight loss similar to those who work out more regularly.
  • Experts say people who work out once or twice a week have more time for recovery and may be able to train more intensely.

How often do you need to exercise if your goal is to lose weight? According to new research, the answer may be less than you think.

A study published in the journal Obesity has found that whether you exercise regularly or one to two times a week, both options produce weight loss.

The new study found that people defined by researchers as “weekend warriors” (individuals who perform 150 minutes of total physical activity with 50% or more of it happening over one or two sessions) can also lose weight similarly to individuals who exercise on a regular basis.

However, it’s important to point out that weight loss for “weekend warriors” occurred specifically when they met the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations of 150 minutes per week.

“On a high level, this study reaffirms the old adage about physical activity and health: any activity is better than no activity,” Dr. Beverly Tchang, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, said in a press release. “The main takeaway, though, is that people should be active in any manner that suits their lifestyle.”

How exercising 1-2 times a week can lead to weight loss

Personal trainer Tejal Patel isn’t surprised by the findings of the study. However, she said it’s important to note that the study doesn’t indicate the differences in weight loss between the regular exercises and the weekend warriors.

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“The study measures the weekend warriors against inactive individuals, proving that some activity will always outperform no activity. However, there is no indication of which group – the weekend warriors or the regular exercises – achieved the greatest percentage of fat loss,” Patel said.

While there’s no indication that exercising one to two times a week is as effective as exercising more regularly, the results are still promising.

Additionally, there are several reasons why exercising just once or twice a week will aid weight loss.

Firstly, exercise burns calories and can contribute to muscle mass development, both of which can lead to fat loss.

What’s more, the weekend warriors may be giving their bodies more time to rest, which could mean they can train more intensely when they work out.

“It’s highly likely that those who exercise regularly – perhaps after or before work, compromising additional sleep time – are not able to exert themselves to the same intensity as the weekend exercisers who may be better rested,” Patel pointed out.

“Even if the exercise is more frequent, the intensity is an important element affecting energy use, and, therefore, fat loss,” she added.

Limitations and challenges for weekend warriors

While exercising one to two times a week can help you achieve your weight loss goals, Patel wouldn’t say it’s preferable to a regular routine throughout the week.

“If all activity is saved until the weekend, when socials, meetups, parties, holidays, breaks, weddings, etc., are more likely to take place, there’s a greater risk that weekend warriors could lose momentum, and, in turn, the motivation to keep going,” she said.

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Add to that, Patel said there is so much more to weight loss than how often you exercise.

“It’s nutrition that largely drives fat loss,” she explained. “Regular training, meanwhile, optimizes the shape you build and encourages fat loss over weight loss.”

How to get the most out of exercising one to two days a week

If you’re limited to one or two workouts a week, you might wonder how long and hard you need to train for it to be effective.

Personal trainer and weight loss coach Anne Iarchy said it depends on what type of exercise you do and your current fitness level.

“If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start with shorter workouts and build up over time. That goes for training intensity, too,” she noted.

If you can only complete one to two workouts a week, then Iarchy said focusing mostly on strength training with a bit of cardio mixed in is best.

Patel agreed and suggested adapting your approach according to whether you work out two days in a row or have a day or two in between to recover.

“If you’re doing two non-consecutive days, aim to complete two full-body strength sessions covering all the major and accessory muscle groups,” she advised. “Spend no longer than an hour on this portion of the workout and ensure you get close to failure on your reps with strong technique, before finishing your session with some steady-state cardio.”

If you’re training two days back-to-back, Patel advised working on an upper body and lower body split, so you’re training a different part of the body each day.

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“This will allow each muscle group to be fatigued without affecting the subsequent training days. In turn, that means your training intensity can remain high,” she explained.

Iarchy suggested that another approach for training two days in a row is to split each workout into push and pull exercises to work different muscle groups. This can help you avoid injury and give you enough time for recovery.

Starting slowly and building new habits over time is important, especially if you’re a beginner.

“Warmup with 5-10 minutes of cardio before getting into split strength training, and, if you’re not sure what you’re doing, sign up for a few sessions with a personal trainer to get an appropriate program to your current fitness and strength level,” Iarchy advised.

Takeaway Note

If you want to lose weight, you may have assumed that you must be in the gym almost daily.

However, the results of a new study challenge that assumption and show that any increase in movement is a contribution to your weight loss efforts.

Iarchy said it’s important to remember that weight loss does not immediately result from what you do on a specific day.

“It’s a result of what you do week in, week out, and your consistency with it. As long as you are consistent with your exercise, nutrition, and sleep, you should get results,” she said.


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