The Power of Weekend Warriors – Can you save your exercise for the weekend?
Exercise is crucial for good health. Doctors recommend that we get 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity and 75 minutes a week of intense physical activity. This amounts to about 30 minutes of physical activity per day; with 20 minutes for light activity and 10 minutes for intense activity. For example, if you go for a 20-minute walk and do 10 minutes of weightlifting or jogging then you would be meeting the recommendations. However, some have wondered whether you need to exercise every day or if the activity can be done in larger chunks on just a few days. For example, maybe you could exercise for an hour on 3 days out of the week instead of doing 30 minutes every day. Some people, called weekend warriors, get most of their exercise in on the weekend, and don’t exercise at all during the rest of the week. Recent research shows that these weekend warriors may be on to something.1
The study we are looking at today aimed to test whether weekend warriors experience the same health benefits as people who exercise every day. To test this, the study used accelerometers. An accelerometer is a device that measures the intensity of body movement and can be used to track when someone is engaging in exercise. Accelerometers are also used in smartphones and wearable devices to measure physical activity, such as step counts. The study participants wore these accelerometers for one week and went about their daily lives as normal. Then over the next several years (between 2015 and 2023), the researchers checked up on the participants’ heart health. The researchers looked at each participant's patterns of accelerometer activity and determined whether they were a weekend warrior, someone who exercised daily, or someone who did not get much physical exercise. The main goal was to see whether these three types of people experienced different rates of heart disease.
The study found first that weekend warriors were common. Out of the almost ninety-thousand study participants, 42% showed a weekend warrior pattern of physical activity. It was also found that weekend warriors had similarly low levels of heart disease. Both weekend warriors and daily exercisers had lower rates of heart disease than those who did not get the recommended amount of exercise.
Overall, this research suggests that it doesn’t matter so much when you choose to exercise, as long as you get the recommended amount every week. This could be for 30 minutes every day or for an hour and a half a couple times a week. As long as you stay active, you will lower your chances of developing heart disease.
Weekend Warrior - Someone who does long and intense exercise on the weekend but doesn’t work out for the rest of the week. For example, a weekend warrior might work out for 2 hours on Saturday and another hour and a half on Sunday to get the recommended amount of exercise.
Accelerometer - a device that measures the intensity of body movement.
- Khurshid S, Al-Alusi MA, Churchill TW, Guseh JS, Ellinor PT. Accelerometer-Derived “Weekend Warrior” Physical Activity and Incident Cardiovascular Disease. JAMA. 2023;330(3):247-252. doi:10.1001/jama.2023.10875