Can Weekend-Only Exercise Still Contribute To Good Health? A Large Study Says It Can

If you consider yourself a "weekend warrior" –- someone who can only fit in exercise over the weekend instead of regularly throughout the week -– you'll be happy to know that a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that exercising only over the weekend can provide the same health benefits as exercising during the week, per BBC.

Researchers tracked over 350,000 adults in the United States over 10 years and found that people who engaged in the recommended amount of physical activity over one to two sessions over the weekend experienced roughly the same lower-level risk of mortality as those who spread out the same level of physical activity during the week, per JAMA Internal Medicine.

British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Joanne Whitmore told BBC that the study proves that getting in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week is what is most important, not when you do it. The key is to meet the threshold of the recommended amount of physical activity on a consistent weekly basis to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

The cons of weekend-only workouts

While the research suggests that only exercising on weekends can be equally beneficial to exercising during the week, the practice may have its downsides. For instance, I-Min Lee, an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told U.S. News & World Report that weekend warriors are more likely to have injuries, such as fractures and sprains, because they tend to exercise more vigorously. Lee co-authored an earlier 2017 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine comparing the health of people who exercised regularly during the week with those who cram their weekly physical activity into one or two sessions.

Due to this increased risk of injury, health experts say that warming up, cooling down, and post-workout recovery are even more essential for weekend warriors. Dr. Thomas Trojian, team physician and a professor of family medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia told U.S. News & World Report it is therefore important to stretch for 10 minutes a day during the week to help safely prepare for your weekend workouts. Additionally, experts say it is important to remember to keep your limitations in mind to prevent injury.

If you can't find enough time to get in the recommended amount of weekly physical activity, Dr. Troijan suggests trying high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves intense bursts of activity with intervals of rest and is better than doing nothing all week. However, he cautions to make sure you're ready for it.