Well-Being Longevity

Exercising only on the weekend is still effective, study finds

“For people with fewer opportunities for daily or regular physical activity during their work week, these findings are important.”
home gym
The Associated Press/ Frank Franklin II

Story at a glance

  • Many Americans may have a hard time fitting workouts into their busy schedules.

  • However, findings from a new paper suggest isolating exercise to weekends could be just as effective as regular workouts.

  • Meeting the recommended weekly total exercise time threshold may be more important than what time of day individuals workout or how often.

Busy Americans may not have time during the week to fit in the American Heart Association’s recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. But new research from nearly 351,000 adults shows the benefits of exercising only on the weekends are comparable to those seen among more regular exercisers. 

Writing in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers explained how they assessed data from the National Health Interview Survey which took place between 1997 and 2013. Authors classified those who completed all their recommended weekly exercise in one or two sessions as “weekend warriors” and those who spread out sessions as regularly active.

Participants were followed for a median of 10.4 years and within that time frame, 4,130 people died of cardiovascular disease and 6,034 from cancer. 

Similar all-cause mortality hazard ratios were reported for weekend warriors and regular exercisers when compared with inactive participants. Cause-specific mortality hazard ratios were also similar between the two active groups. 

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According to the authors, findings “reinforce the importance of reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for health.” 

They continued, “for people with fewer opportunities for daily or regular physical activity during their work week, these findings are important.”

Exercise can help prevent onset of several non-communicable diseases in addition to combating obesity and weight gain. Currently, 42 percent of the United States’ population is obese and 9.2 percent are classified as severely obese. 

The paper’s findings underscore the importance of meeting total exercise time thresholds each week, as opposed to how often one exercises or at what time of day. 

The self-reported nature of questionnaires marks a limitation to this study, as participant bias may have impacted results. However, a large sample size and the long duration of the study bolsters the conclusions’ reliability.