Working out only on weekends boosts health just as much as exercising daily

WUXI, China — Are you a “weekend warrior” who crams all of their physical activity into one or two days? No problem! A new study finds this kind of lifestyle boosts health just as much as working out every day.

An international team found people who get all of their exercise in one or two sessions on the weekend lower their risk of premature death by as much as their peers who spread exercise throughout the week. Both groups are less likely to succumb to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases than couch potatoes.

“The findings of this large prospective cohort study suggest that individuals who engage in active patterns of physical activity, whether weekend warrior or regularly active, experience lower all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates than inactive individuals,” researchers write in JAMA Internal Medicine.

How long should you be exercising for?

The results were similar for all illnesses once the team accounted for the total amount of exercise. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise for 18 to 64-year-olds.

Therefore, a person could meet these guidelines with a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week or an hour-and-15-minute jog once a week. The findings are based on more than 350,000 adults in the U.S. followed for just over a decade, on average. Out of almost 22,000 deaths, there were eight percent fewer deaths among weekend warriors and 15 percent fewer among those who are regularly active.

“We found that weekend warrior and regularly active participants had similar all-cause and cause-specific mortality, suggesting that when performing the same amount of physical activity, spreading it over more days or concentrating it into fewer days may not influence mortality outcomes,” the study authors report.

The results have implications for those who struggle to find time to exercise due to work or family commitments. They may find it easier to fit less frequent bouts of physical activity into a busy lifestyle. “Does performing the recommended levels of weekly physical activity in 1 to 2 sessions (weekend warrior) vs 3 or more sessions (regularly active) influence mortality?” the research team asks.

“This large prospective cohort study of 350,978 adults in the US did not find any significant difference in mortality rates between weekend warriors and regularly active participants. Compared with physically inactive participants, active participants (both weekend warrior and regularly active) had lower all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates,” researchers continue.

“Adults who perform 150 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) per week may experience similar health benefits whether the sessions are spread throughout the week or concentrated in a weekend.”

Get your exercise whenever you can

The international team looked at links between the weekend warrior and other physical activity patterns and deaths from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

“The findings of this large prospective cohort study underscore that regular physical activity has been associated with lower risks of all-cause and cause-specific mortality compared with physical inactivity,” researchers conclude.

“Most importantly, these findings suggest that whether the recommended amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity is spread out during the week or concentrated into fewer days, there may be no significant difference in health benefits. For people with fewer opportunities for daily or regular physical activity during their work week, these findings are important.”

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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