Your frequency of exercise does affect your health benefits. Exercise has long-lasting, cumulative effects on your health and fitness, but it also produces acute effects that don’t necessarily linger.
A brisk walk can lead to almost immediate improvements in blood-sugar control and blood pressure for many people. But if you don’t walk or otherwise exercise for several consecutive days, those health benefits can evaporate. Studies show that the positive metabolic aspects of exercise start to dissipate within days.
Endurance also fades if you skip workouts for too many days in a row. The same is true with motivation. Multiple studies have found that one of the primary reasons people continue exercising is that they enjoyed yesterday’s exercise or the exertions of the day before; they felt healthier and more physically masterful afterward and wish to relive that sensation. Longer periods between exercise sessions dull that enthusiasm.
Similarly, there is evidence that injury rates can rise after a multiday layoff, especially in activities requiring well-honed technique. Researchers have discovered that two-day breaks between workouts lessen injury rates, but the rates rose if the athlete rested for three days or more.
As a final thought, be realistic in your expectations of yourself. Every day is different. Your energy, motivation and commitment will vary. As long as you commit to at least 20 minutes of exercise at a time, and try not to skip more than two consecutive days, you’ll maintain the health and fitness benefits of an active life.