Don’t knock the ‘weekend warrior’

2 minute read

While maybe not ideal, one or two bouts of fitness per week still significantly improves health, research suggests


Saving all your exercise for the weekend might not be as bad as once thought, with research finding that one or two bouts of fitness per week still significantly improved health.

While it was still ideal to spread that activity over three or more days per week, the study found that the “weekend warriors” were 30% less likely to die of any cause over the 18 year follow-up compared with those reporting no physical activity.

The WHO recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity or at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity, but until now, it was unclear how each strategy of achieving that goal affected health.

Weekend warriors met those targets in one or two sessions, rather than spreading it across the week in smaller chunks.

This group had a 41% and 18% reduced cardiovascular and cancer mortality risk, respectively, compared to the inactive.

“These results mean that weekend warriors and other leisure-time physical activity patterns characterised by one or two sessions per week may provide beneficial health outcomes even when they fall short of physical activity guidelines,” said author Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, exercise researcher at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health and Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Health Sciences.

“This finding persisted after adjusting for potential confounders, prevalent chronic diseases and excluding those who died in the first two years of the study,” he said.

The researchers analysed the survey data and mortality records of almost 64,000 adults from 1994 to 2012 to examine how physical activity patterns tied in with all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality risks.

Regular exercisers, who were active on three or more days per week and met recommended targets, reduced their mortality risks slightly more than weekend warriors.

So, on the question of whether physical activity can wait until the weekend, “the short answer is perhaps”, Dr Hannah Arem, at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, George Washington University, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Mortality risks were reduced with a compressed activity pattern, but the benefits were still best with more frequent activity, she wrote.

“Individuals may have to consider other health outcomes (eg, mental health, diabetes, etc) and individual constraints (eg, time, access, etc) in deciding which activity patterns work best for them,” she wrote.

JAMA Intern Med 2017; online 9 January

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