According to a recent study, concentrating physical activity into one or two days a week, known as “weekend warrior” exercise patterns, can provide similar heart health benefits as exercising regularly throughout the week. Inactive individuals had higher risks of heart-related conditions compared to both active groups.
Compared to a sedentary lifestyle, engaging in either a concentrated weekend workout routine or evenly distributed physical activity throughout the week was associated with similarly reduced risks of heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm), and stroke.
For those struggling to find time for exercise during a busy work week, focusing on moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on one to two days, typically over the weekend, may be a viable option.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in JAMA revealed that this “weekend warrior” pattern was linked to a similar reduction in the risks of heart disease and stroke compared to evenly distributed exercise throughout the week.
Current guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week for overall health. However, it remained uncertain whether this concentrated form of exercise provides the same benefits as spreading activity more evenly across the week.
The Largest Study on the Topic
Dr. Shaan Khurshid, the lead author and a faculty member in the Demoulas Center for Cardiac Arrhythmias at MGH, stated, “Our analysis represents the largest study to address this question.” The study involved 89,573 individuals from the prospective UK Biobank study who wore wrist accelerometers recording their total physical activity and the time spent at different intensities over a week.
Activity Patterns and Heart Health
The participants were categorized as follows: 33.7% were inactive (less than 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week), 42.2% were active weekend warriors (at least 150 minutes, with at least half achieved in 1-2 days), and 24.0% were active regulars (at least 150 minutes, with exercise spread out over several days).
After accounting for potential confounding factors, both active groups demonstrated similarly lower risks of heart attack (27% and 35% lower risks for active weekend warriors and active regulars, respectively, compared to the inactive group), heart failure (38% and 36% lower risks), atrial fibrillation (22% and 19% lower risks), and stroke (21% and 17% lower risks).
Implications and Future Research
Dr. Patrick T. Ellinor, the senior author, acting chief of Cardiology, and co-director of the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center at MGH, commented, “Our findings suggest that interventions to increase physical activity, even when concentrated within a day or two each week, may improve cardiovascular outcomes.” The researchers are considering assessing whether the weekend warrior approach to activity could be associated with reduced risks of a wider range of diseases.
Reference: “Accelerometer-Derived ‘Weekend Warrior’ Physical Activity and Incident Cardiovascular Disease” by Shaan Khurshid, MD, MPH; Mostafa A. Al-Alusi, MD; Timothy W. Churchill, MD; J. Sawalla Guseh, MD; and Patrick T. Ellinor, MD, PhD, published in JAMA on July 18, 2023.
Additional co-authors include Mostafa A. Al-Alusi, MD, Timothy W. Churchill, MD, and J. Sawalla Guseh, MD. The study received support from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the European Union, and the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Consent for the use of Google Analytics and related cookies across the TrendMD network (widget, website, blog) was given.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about weekend workouts
Can weekend workouts be as effective as exercising throughout the week?
Yes, according to a recent study, weekend workouts can offer similar heart health benefits as exercising regularly throughout the week. Both active groups, including weekend warriors, showed lower risks of heart-related conditions compared to inactive individuals.
How does the “weekend warrior” exercise pattern work?
The “weekend warrior” exercise pattern involves concentrating physical activity into one or two days a week, typically over the weekend. This allows individuals who find it challenging to allocate time for exercise during the work week to still engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
Are there specific health benefits associated with the “weekend warrior” exercise pattern?
Yes, the study found that compared to a sedentary lifestyle, both the weekend warrior and evenly distributed physical activity patterns were associated with lower risks of heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and stroke. Engaging in concentrated physical activity within a day or two each week can improve cardiovascular outcomes.
What is the recommended amount of physical activity for overall health?
Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week for overall health. This recommendation can be achieved through various patterns, including spreading the activity evenly throughout the week or concentrating it into one or two days, like the weekend warrior approach.
Is the weekend warrior approach beneficial for other diseases besides heart health?
The researchers are considering assessing whether the weekend warrior exercise pattern could be linked to reduced risks of a broader spectrum of diseases. While the study focused on cardiovascular outcomes, future research may explore the impact of concentrated physical activity on other health conditions.
More about weekend workouts
- Study: Weekend Warrior Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease
- UK Biobank Study
- Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)
- American Heart Association
- National Institutes of Health
- Corrigan Minehan Heart Center at MGH