It’s okay to be a weekend warrior

For more than a decade, the conventional wisdom has been that excessive sitting is a lethal activity and we should be moving regularly throughout the day. Cue the standing desk revolution and a wave of guilt for those of us who want to be fit but are still chained to our computers for 40 hours a week. Some studies have questioned whether resistance training can mitigate how constant sitting affects vascular health specifically, with mixed results.

Now new research has emerged with a clearer result and encouraging news for anyone who tends to exercise on the weekend.

An investigation by an international group of researchers, published in JAMA Internal Medicine this summer, found that when it comes to longevity, exercising only on the weekend is enough to compensate for a sedentary lifestyle during the rest of the week, as long as you meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity level: a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity. aerobic activity This confirms research conducted in the UK in 2017 that reached a similar conclusion about weekend warriors, albeit in a smaller study.

The new study analyzed data from 350,978 adults in the US who reported their physical activity annually from 1997 to 2013. Based on the frequency, intensity and duration of their exercise, individuals were classified as either inactive or physically active and those in the active group were labeled “weekend warriors” or “normally active.” The researchers referenced the National Death Index through December 31, 2015 to track participant mortality.

There was no statistically significant difference in death rates between weekend warriors and regularly active participants, and both groups had lower death rates than inactive participants (even when broken down by all causes , cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality). “We showed that weekend warriors can achieve health benefits comparable to regularly active people when doing a similar amount of general activity,” said Donghoon Lee, study co-author and research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health. Times of London. “Ideally, it would be good to spread exercise throughout the week, but in the real world this will not be possible and our findings have important implications for people who do not find it convenient.”

“In my view, the bottom line here is that the total amount or dose of physical activity completed remains more important than any of the individual components, including the pattern of physical activity such as weekend warrior vs. regular weekly activity,” said Jonathan Stine, a professor of medicine at Penn State, who was not associated with the study.

Still, there are some caveats about the new findings. An obvious limitation of the study is that it relied on self-reported activity levels, which may or may not be accurate. But a smaller 2018 study analyzed data from 3,438 people who used accelerometers to objectively assess physical activity patterns and reached the same basic conclusion: people who exercise all week don’t live longer than warriors of the weekend

The optimal combination of frequency, intensity, and duration of physical activity to reduce mortality risk remains poorly understood, but this research is a useful step forward. “A lot of the evidence we have [about the health benefits of exercise] it’s still tied to the total number of minutes during the week versus breaking it down by the number of sessions,” said Brad Prigge, an activity and wellness assessment specialist in the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program.

Prigge adds that while this latest study is encouraging, it’s important to look at more than just mortality risk. The new research doesn’t tell us whether weekend-only athletes can make the same improvements in fitness as people who exercise more frequently, or whether they’re more prone to injury.

Ultimately, no one disputes that if you want to feel better and get fitter, moving more is smart. “Something is always better than nothing,” Prigge says, adding that we should ask her patients: “What is important to you and how do you feel?”

If sitting at a desk for eight hours a day most of the week doesn’t affect your ability to do other things you enjoy, like hiking with your kids, running local 10Ks, or keeping up with your friends during weekend bike rides, don’t beat yourself up about it.

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