Is it healthy to be a ‘weekend warrior’?
With 40+ hour work weeks, commutes, social obligations and caring for households, it can be difficult for people nowadays to fit exercise into their busy schedules. Research suggests that the benefits of weekly exercise remain the same no matter how that exercise is split across days. ‘Weekend warriors’ – those who exercise for an extended period of time only once or twice per week – are just as healthy as those who exercise for shorter durations more frequently, according to a new study.
The study looked at 89,500 people who were an average age of 62 and separated them into three groups – weekend warriors, active regular and inactive. The weekend warriors were classified as those who get the recommended 150-300 minutes of physical activity in just 1-2 days per week. Researchers found that this group had the same lowered risk of heart failure, stroke and musculoskeletal conditions as those who attain their 150-300 minutes of weekly exercise over four to seven days per week.
“The benefits of exercise generally last beyond just the few hours following the activity,” says Dr. Payal Parikh, a family medicine physician at Advocate Medical Group in Elgin, Ill. She explains how over the years, daily exercise has been recommended for achieving weight management and physical fitness, but in today’s busy world, that recommendation becomes more difficult to achieve.
“Weekend warriors have found a way to incorporate exercise into their lifestyle in a consistent way. In doing so, they should still reap the long-term benefits,” says Dr. Parikh.
Can strenuous activity over a short period of time be dangerous?
Dr. Parikh explains that it could be dangerous when first starting the regimen and it is best to take it slow. “If your lifestyle is currently sedentary, it is important to build up your endurance to meet these goals and time durations. Increasing the intensity or duration of your exercise on a weekly basis, for example, will allow you to safely achieve your fitness goals.”
You may find that, starting routine exercise when it is not already a habit is the hardest part. To combat this, Dr. Parikh recommends prioritizing any kind of exercise that is enjoyable to you and taking small steps.
“Whether it be running, walking, dancing, swimming, golf, or pickleball, the best exercise is the kind that you will commit to doing. If you pick exercise that you dislike, you’re unlikely to make a habit out of it,” says Dr. Parikh.
She advises patients to start with 15 minutes as many days as possible and then adding 5-10 minutes to each workout. “Whether it be over 2 days or 5 days, you’ll get closer and closer to a goal of 150-300 minutes per week,” Dr. Parikh adds.
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