According to a new study from Robert H. Shmerling, MD, the Faculty Editor for Harvard Health Publications, people who only exercise on the weekends, i.e. weekend warriors, but who still met the recommended amount of exercise per week, experience significant health benefits despite the heightened risk of injury commonly associated with this unconventional and somewhat haphazard approach to fitness.
As per Shmerling’s study, which was published recently in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, weekend warriors were largely defined as those who only exercise once or twice a week but do so vigorously for at least one hour and 15 minutes, or those who exercise once or twice a week at moderate intensity for at least one hour and 50 minutes.
Shmerling’s study concluded that—just like their more balanced and consistent exercise counterparts—weekend warrior exercisers also experience a reduced risk of death from illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. More specifically, Shmerling determined through his study that, “compared to less active adults, weekend warriors had a 30 percent lower risk of death from any cause, a 40 percent lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, and an 18 percent lower risk of death due to cancer.”
While Shmerling’s study does seem to shed some light on a possible connection between weekend-only exercise and health benefits, it’s impossible to know for sure how lucrative the correlation is. Shmerling’s study didn’t take into account other possible factors that could also play a part in a weekend warriors’ health, such as diet, stress levels or cultural influences. Still, this study is one of the first to imply that weekend warriors may still reap the benefits of regular exercise without having to workout, well, regularly. “While regular exercisers had lower death rates than weekend warriors, the differences were quite small,” said Shmerling.
So if you’re a weekend warrior when it comes to exercise, take heed; you may not have to change your once or twice a week exercise routine after all, provided you refrain from getting injured and aim for at least one hour and 50 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. According to Shmerling, “...it has long been assumed that you can’t get much benefit by exercising just once or twice a week rather than daily or most days of the week. This new study should make us rethink that assumption.”
For weekend warriors and regular exercisers alike, most experts agree that taking a moment to warm-up and stretch before exercising, as well as remembering not to push yourself too hard, are crucial to remaining injury-free during your workouts. And as always, being active rather than inactive is always best, no matter how often you do it.