For many of us, there is simply no time during the work week to hit the gym. Between the many hours of work we put in, the long commute to and from the office, and our responsibilities at home, there’s no time (or energy) left to fit in a proper workout.
But don’t let that discourage you. Being a weekend warrior, someone who works out mostly on the weekends is almost as good as working out every day in the week. In fact, according to new research from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, the when of exercise isn’t as important as the how much.
A team of UK researchers analyzed data collected from nearly 63,600 people over the age of 40, between 1994 and 2008. They examined not only exercise habits (insufficient exercise versus weekend exercise versus daily exercise), but they also analyzed the effects the exercise habits had on all-risk mortality, cancer, and cardiovascular death rates.
Those who reported themselves as being inactive (not exercising regularly) had the highest risk of health problems. No surprise there. However, the frequency of exercise had little effect on mortality rates. Whether the participants did exercise every day, worked out on the weekends, or even just got sporadic exercise, their risk of cancer, CVD, and all-risk mortality dropped by as much as 30%.
Of course, let’s be very clear about this: the study only talked about mortality rates. It didn’t study the effects of exercise on overall fitness, the quality of life, or any other aspects of life. The study simply examined how your exercise patterns affected your chance of dying from heart disease, cancer, or some other disease.
The good news is that even weekend warriors will see the health benefits of exercise. As long as you get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week, you’ll improve your health by that 30%. Of course, the more active you are, the lower your risk of death. There’s a very clear inverse correlation between exercise and mortality rates. Do more exercise, lower the chance you’ll die from health problems like cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
And remember, you still need to do regular exercise if you want to be fit. You should always try to fit plenty of exercise in on the weekends, but get a few minutes in during the week. Even five to 15 minutes of HIIT training is enough to yield serious fitness results and give you the healthy, strong, supple body you want.
1. Gary O’Donovan et al., “Association of “weekend warrior” and other leisure time physical activity patterns with risks for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality,” JAMA Internal, doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.8014, published online 9 January 2017, abstract.