Can Being a 'Weekend Warrior' Reduce Mortality Risk?

Those who exercise one, two days a week see similar health benefits to those who work out regularly
Those who exercise one, two days a week see similar health benefits to those who work out regularly

HealthDay News — Weekend warriors may add almost as many years to their life span as those who work out all week long, according to research published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data from 63,591 men and women in England and Scotland who took health surveys in 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2004. All respondents were aged 40 or older, with an average age of 59. Almost two-thirds (62.3%) were considered to be sedentary, engaging in no moderate or vigorous exercise; 22.4% were described as "insufficiently active," meaning they were somewhat active but engaged in less than the recommended guideline of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise a week; 3.7% were "weekend warriors" who met or exceeded the guidelines, but only exercised once or twice a week; and 11.1% were "regularly active" and exceeded the guidelines several times a week. 

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The researchers found that, compared to the inactive participants, weekend warriors had a 30% lower all-cause mortality risk, while regular exercisers had a 35% lower risk. Those who were deemed "insufficiently active" had a 34% lower mortality risk than inactive participants. Mortality rates from cancer and cardiovascular disease were also lower, at similar levels, in the exercisers – no matter how often they worked out – versus the inactive participants.

Hannah Arem, PhD, an assistant professor with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who co-wrote a commentary accompanying the study, said the new research is important. "Those people who have to condense exercise into one to two sessions per week but meet the guideline minimum will still reap a big health benefit – a 30% lower risk of death compared to those who do not exercise," Arem told HealthDay. "Still, there are additional benefits with higher levels of physical activity and greater frequency."

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