The Advantages of Being a Weekend Warrior

On Jan. 9, 2017 a study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine (JAMA IM) about the health benefits of being a “weekend warrior.” A weekend warrior is someone who just works out once or twice per week, but still meets the physical activity recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity weekly. The study was accompanied by an invited commentary from the Milken Institute School of Public Health’s Dr. Hannah Arem and Dr. Loretta DiPietro. Dr. Arem is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Dr. DiPietro is a professor and chair of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend spreading this exercise out over the course of the week, but there is still ongoing debate about the importance of frequency of exercise, which is what this paper was trying to address. It is important to keep in mind that this paper looked only at mortality, and not at other health outcomes. Still, the researchers found that those who condensed exercise into 1-2 sessions per week, but met the guideline minimum, had a 30% lower risk of death compared to those who do not exercise. The risk reduction was similar for those who exercised more frequently, but did not meet the recommended minimum. There was an even lower risk of death among those who exercised more frequently and met the recommended minimum physical activity level.

Dr. Arem offered the following insight in an interview:

“Individuals who are inactive may consider trying to build more physical activity into their daily routines. Those already active may want to consider doing more in order to get additional health benefits.”

When you keep a hectic week schedule, it’s often easy to de-prioritize working out or write it off altogether. This study gives some evidence of health benefit for those who think exercise is a lost cause if they cannot exercise every day. There are reverberating effects that will pay off in the long-run, at least in terms of mortality. Individuals may also want to consider other reasons for exercise including maintaining weight, controlling blood sugar levels, improving sleep patterns, or performing in fitness.