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Weekend warriors who embark on an exercise blitz over the weekend – despite being office and couch potatoes during the week – enjoy almost the same health benefits as regular exercisers, a new study says. Up until now scientists believed that the damage done by 5 days of inactivity could not be overcome by weekend exercise. The new study however, shows that even the weekend warriors’ lifestyle of no exercise followed by intense weekend activity was enough to afford significant health benefits, lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer by more than a third.
“The weekend warrior activity pattern, characterised by one or two sessions per week of moderate or vigorous physical activity, may be sufficient to reduce risks for all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality regardless of adherence to prevailing physical activity guidelines,” said lead author Dr Gary O’Donovan, of Loughborough University.
Some smaller studies had previously inferred that vigorous exercise on the weekend only was likely to increase injury and put a strain on the heart. But the new study is both broad and large, following 63,000 British adults over a period of 18 years to find out how the frequency and quantity of exercise benefit health.
All those who exercised – regardless of whether they did so throughout the week or at weekends only – had a large reduction in the risk of early death. Although those who exercised more frequently had an even better chance of healthy old age, it was only a slight increase. Those who spread their exercise over the whole week had a 35% lower risk of death overall (a 41% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, 21% less risk of cancer). The weekend warriors had an overall reduction of death risk by 30%, with chances of cardio-vascular disease down by 40% and the risk of cancer reduced by 18%. A very close comparison considering they just exercised on the weekend.
“It is very encouraging news that being physically active on just one or two occasions per week is associated with a lower risk of death, even among people who do some activity but don’t quite meet recommended exercise levels,” said one of the lead authors of the study, Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney.
“This finding persisted after adjusting for chronic diseases and excluding those who died in the first two years of the study.
“These results mean that ‘Weekend Warriors’ and other leisure-time physical activity patterns characterised by one or two sessions per week may provide beneficial health outcomes event when they fall short of physical activity guidelines” he said.
The study was published in the JAMA Internal Medicine magazine.
So even one or two reasonably intense exercise sessions a week will have huge benefits for health – not to mention quality of life, happiness and feelings of well-being. Struggling to make even this one session work? A personal trainer just once a week could be the cost effective solution. Many of our clients have just a single sessions a week with some easy to achieve homework provided by us on the side.