Participating in physical activity as a "Weekend Warrior" yields similar heart health advantages as consistent daily exercise.


Fast facts:

  • New research indicates that exercising just once or twice a week can provide similar cardiovascular benefits as spreading workouts across the week.
  • The frequency of exercise throughout the week mattered less to researchers than the total time spent exercising.
  • Experts advise individuals to begin with a gradual approach and progressively increase their exercise duration each week.

A recent study suggests that individuals who exercise exclusively on weekends may reap similar cardiovascular benefits as those who spread their workouts throughout the week.

Allocating time for daily workouts can often pose a challenge, but according to the study, these "weekend warriors" don't necessarily miss out on certain benefits by condensing their exercise routine into one or two days per week. Compared to inactive individuals, both weekend warriors and regular exercisers exhibited reduced risks of atrial fibrillation, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

The study, published on July 18 in JAMA, analyzed data from nearly 90,000 participants.

Ronald Maag, MD, assistant professor of cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine and medical director of the Baylor Heart Clinic, highlighted that the frequency of exercise sessions is less crucial than the total weekly exercise duration. Thus, the focus should be on accumulating sufficient minutes of exercise each week, irrespective of the number of sessions.

Experts emphasize that the similarity in benefits between weekend warriors and consistent exercisers underscores the importance of total exercise time rather than the distribution of workouts throughout the week. The concept of "weekend warrior" exercise routines has been previously explored, but in this study, researchers aimed to gather a broader and more definitive body of evidence, as explained by Shaan Khurshid, MD, MPH, the lead study author and a staff electrophysiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Khurshid and his team examined data from nearly 90,000 participants enrolled in the U.K. Biobank cohort who utilized wrist accelerometers to monitor their activity over a week. The focus of the analysis was specifically on the correlation between cardiovascular health and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), encompassing activities like walking, jogging, stationary cycling, and elliptical exercises.


Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation of 150 minutes of MVPA per week for all adults, participants were categorized based on their activity levels. Those who didn't meet this threshold were deemed inactive. Weekend warriors were individuals who met the threshold, with at least 50% of their recommended activity occurring in one or two days. Participants meeting the threshold with a more evenly spread activity pattern were termed "active regular."

After tracking participants for a week, researchers followed up six years later to review the occurrence of cardiovascular events such as heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and stroke events over the preceding six years.

The key finding revealed that both the active weekend warrior and active regular patterns were associated with significantly lower rates of these events—20% to 40%—with minimal differences between them.

Interestingly, participants in the study surpassed the recommended 150 minutes of MVPA per week, averaging about 230 minutes.

Khurshid emphasized that the duration of exercise didn't alter the results, as long as it exceeded the CDC's recommendation. Even when comparing those at the 25th percentile (115 minutes weekly) to those at the 75th percentile (403 minutes), the rate of cardiovascular events remained similar.

This similarity persisted even when the definition of a weekend warrior was made more stringent. Khurshid noted that even those who concentrated 75% of their weekly activity into one to two days still experienced comparable benefits to their more consistently active counterparts.

Good News for those with hectics Schedules

The findings of this study offer reassurance to individuals with busy schedules, suggesting that even if exercise isn't a daily occurrence, it can still greatly benefit heart health.

Shaan Khurshid emphasized that the benefits of exercise persist even with a few days between sessions, indicating that a weekly exercise routine can still yield significant physical benefits.

Moreover, the research underscores the paramount importance of exercise in maintaining overall health. According to Ronald Maag, exercise contributes to weight loss, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and aids in preventing or managing diabetes. These cumulative benefits reduce the likelihood of negative cardiovascular events like heart attacks.

While the study advocates for weekend warrior exercise schedules, there are considerations to bear in mind before shifting all workouts to Saturday and Sunday. Establishing a routine may offer some advantages, as integrating movement into daily life enhances adherence to exercise, as noted by Maag.

Furthermore, exercise provides additional benefits such as improved sleep and energy levels, with many individuals experiencing a post-workout boost in well-being. However, it remains uncertain whether the weekend warrior approach yields the same level of benefits in these areas.

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