If you only exercise on the weekends, it's still better than not exercising at all.
According to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the "weekend warrior" exercise pattern was associated with an 8% lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to people who are completely inactive. Exercising regularly throughout the week was associated with a 15% lower death risk.
The study defined weekend warriors as people who get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise over a one-or-two day period. People who "exercise regularly" get the same amount of exercise over three or more days.
Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health and a co-author of the study, told Verywell in an email that many people struggle to find time to exercise. But the study results suggested that even if you condense your workouts into once or twice a week, is better than being completely inactive, he added.
While this is not the first study to examine the weekend warrior exercise pattern, it is one of the only research endeavors to compare mortality rates between regularly active individuals and weekend warriors.
“I was not surprised that some exercise is better than none, but the benefit was more than I expected,” Giovannucci said.
Physical activity is associated with maintaining a healthy body weight, supporting brain health, and reducing the risk of certain diseases. Exercise can also improve your sleep quality, blood pressure, and anxiety.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. However, just over half of all American adults meet this guideline.
Abbie E. Smith-Ryan, PhD, an exercise physiology professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, said that some people might think that weekend workouts don't make a difference in terms of health.
"It's okay if you only do it on the weekends, it doesn't make you any better or worse than anybody else," Smith-Ryan said.
However, there may be some downsides to exercising just on the weekends. Research has shown that people who go from being inactive during the week to engaging in high levels of physical activity on the weekend might be more prone to injuries. Wrist, ankle, and shoulder injuries are some of the most common injuries for weekend warriors.
Smith-Ryan also said that spreading out physical activity throughout the week can give your body more time to recover after an intense workout. But experts agree that doing any amount of exercise, whenever you can, is still better than sitting on the couch.
While this observational study included over 350,000 adults, the researchers relied on self-reported data. In the study, the authors acknowledge that this type of data is prone to error and future studies should include both self-reported and device-measured data.
The authors also pointed out that the low number of deaths and certain confounding factors, such as dietary intake, could have influenced the results.
This study also only focused on aerobic exercise rather than strength training. The current guidelines recommend that adults should engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.
Despite these limitations, Giovannucci said the authors are confident in their overall findings of the benefits of being a weekend warrior.
There are many reasons you might have a hard time exercising throughout the week. Experts say that some exercise is better than nothing, so don't feel like you have to go from 0 to 100 overnight.