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It is common advice to aim at 150 minutes moderate aerobic activity: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916

My questions is how free are we to spread it: for example can one do 15 minutes each day 5 times a week (weekdays) + 40 minutes a day on weekend = 5 * 15 + 2 * 40 = 155. Would this also retain the exercise benefits?

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Yeah, you are free to spread out the activity however you want and it will give you similar benefits. Keep in mind that 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise is a recommendation to keep the general population at a bare minimum level of fitness that people need, to stay out of hospitals. I would advise if you want to actually be healthy, find something that you enjoy which includes some level of activity. Doing something you hate for some benefits is often not sustainable over the long term.

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The recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity comes from the World Health Organization's 2020 Adult Physical Activity Guidelines. These guidelines more precisely state that adults ages 18-64 years:

  • should do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity;
  • or at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week
  • should also do muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits.
  • may increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to more than 300 minutes; or do more than 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week for additional health benefits.
  • should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits, and
  • to help reduce the detrimental effects of high levels of sedentary behaviour on health, all adults and older adults should aim to do more than the recommended levels of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity

It should be noted that while these guidelines do not prescribe any restrictions on the duration or organisation of individual bouts of exercise, the 2010 guidelines that were superseded by the 2020 guidelines were very similar, but also stating that "Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration". It seems reasonable to assume from the fact that this recommendation was removed from the guidelines, that the W.H.O. determined that such a restriction was not beneficial. Therefore I would recommend splitting up your physical activity in whatever way is most convenient for you.

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  • In my experience, doing less than 10 minutes of any effective aerobic (70-80% of maximal heartrate) activity in itself tends to be very difficult, because of the usual lag of 30-60 seconds for your HR to catch up to any activity you are doing. My guess is that the 10' minimum was removed to lessen the psyhological entry barrier for inactive people (I have no sources to back this up though).
    – D. Kovács
    Dec 18, 2021 at 12:41

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