Turns out that exercising only at weekends is ‘just as good’ as more regular movement

Don’t have time to work out during the week? Not a problem – a new study has found that packing all your exercise into the weekend is ‘just as good’ as working out more regularly.

If you’re the kind of time-poor fitness fan who can’t get to the gym during the week but smashes a HIIT class, long run or weights session on a Saturday morning, then we’ve got great news for you. A new report claims that weekend warriors who pack all their exercise into a couple of days at the end of the week get all the benefits of more regular exercisers.

Researchers from Jiangnan University in China looked at the data of over 350,000 people in the USA. They divided those who met the recommended physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week into two groups.

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The first group – the ‘weekend warriors’ – hit those weekly targets in just one or two sessions. The second – ‘regularly active’ – group reached them in three or more workouts.

Compared to people who did no exercise, regularly active people were 15% less likely to die over a 10-year period. But when researchers compared the two groups doing the same amount of activity, they found that the death rates for both weekend warriors and regular exercisers were more or less the same.

The study, which was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found that those who met the recommended activity levels experienced “the same benefit whether the sessions are performed throughout the week or concentrated into fewer days”.

If you spend your weekends walking in nature, you’re reaping all the benefits of doing more regular exercise.

And that’s brilliant news for people who simply don’t have the time or energy to exercise during the week. There’s nothing like nailing a long run or an intense spin class at the start of the weekend to really get you in the mood to enjoy your days off – free from tight time limits. Anyone who’s tried to exercise during their lunchbreak knows only too well just how bloody stressful it can be to exercise, shower and get back to work within 60 minutes. 

It’s also good for those of us who find that we naturally move more at the weekend when we don’t have to spend nine hours chained to our desks. You don’t need to run or go to the gym to meet these recommended activity levels; brisk walking or hiking, gardening or cycling around town for a total of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) also count.

Are weekend warriors more at risk of injury?

What you want to watch out for, however, is the pressure to pack in 150 minutes of activity over a short period of time if it doesn’t come naturally to you. If you’re pushing yourself to run a half marathon or go on three-hour hikes every weekend, you could see yourself running into injuries and burn out.

Renee McGregor, a sports nutritionist and female health expert previously told Stylist: “The issue with being a weekend warrior is that there is a tendency to overdo things during these short periods of time, which can lead to increased risk of injury.” This can be from the fact that the body isn’t adapted to the intense load of training – you can’t jump from doing nothing to 75 minutes of HIIT in one go and expect the body to be able to keep up.

And that’s something that exercise scientist Dr Brendon Stubbs has warned about in the past too: “Anecdotally, those who only move in terms of walking to the Tube and in caring roles at home for five days a week and then suddenly thrash it on a Saturday inevitably increase the risk of injuries compared to those who steadily increase their activity.”

But if you do enjoy being active at the weekends and find it difficult to carve out a little ‘me’ time during the week, know that you’re still getting all the cardio benefits that come with more regular exercise.

Images: Getty

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