Individuals facing difficulty finding time to exercise during a busy work week can still benefit from their physical activity by concentrating their moderate-to-vigorous exercise on one to two days of the week or the weekend.
A recent study published in JAMA, conducted by investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), explored this “weekend warrior” approach and found that it was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke than a more evenly distributed exercise routine.
Current health guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week for overall health. However, it is still unclear whether exercising on specific days could offer the same benefits as spreading it throughout the week. This is the largest study addressing this question.
The study analysed data from 89,573 individuals in the prospective UK Biobank study who wore wrist accelerometers to record their total physical activity and time spent at different intensities over an entire week.
Among the participants, 33.7% were inactive (engaging in less than 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week), 42.2% were active weekend warriors (achieving at least 150 minutes, with at least half accomplished in 1–2 days), and 24% were active-regular (reaching at least 150 minutes, with most exercise spread out over several days).
As per the analysis, both activity patterns showed similarly lower risks of heart attack (27% and 35% for active weekend warriors and active-regular compared to inactive), heart failure (38% and 36%), atrial fibrillation (22% and 19%), and stroke (21% and 17%).
These findings suggest that physical activity could improve cardiovascular outcomes, even when concentrated within a day or two each week.
The study researchers plan to further evaluate whether the weekend warrior approach may be associated with reduced risks of other diseases.
Source: Massachusetts General Hospital
Image Credit: iStock