‘Weekend Warriors’ Get the Same Health Benefits as Gym Rats, Study Says

Exercise, whether it's done in small chunks or all at once, helps you live longer.


Gym photo via istock.com/tempura

In an ideal world, you’d hop out of bed each morning and hit the treadmill with a spring in your step, or sail out of the office at 5 p.m. and head straight to Spin class. In reality, though, the rigors of a busy life often relegate the gym to weekends-only territory.

Luckily, a glorious new study says that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The research says so-called “weekend warriors”—people who squeeze all of their weekly exercise into one or two days—reap almost the same benefits as regular gym rats.

The study finds that active adults are significantly less likely than sedentary people to die early, whether they favor many chunks of exercise or one marathon session. There are health boosts even for those who work out, but don’t quite meet the physical activity guidelines of 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate weekly exercise.

Regular exercisers boast a 35 percent lower all-cause mortality rate, a 41 percent lower cardiovascular mortality rate, and a 21 percent lower cancer mortality rate, according to the research. Weekend warriors are just behind, with a 30 percent lower total mortality rate, a 40 percent lower cardiovascular mortality rate, and an 18 percent lower cancer mortality rate. Those who exercise, but insufficiently, have numbers similar to weekend warriors.

Weekend warriors did choose vigorous activity at a higher-than-average rate, however, suggesting that “quality may be more important than quantity.”

The researchers, including an epidemiologist from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, assessed physical activity data from 63,591 adults for this study. Roughly 63 percent were termed inactive, reporting no moderate or vigorous physical activity; 22 percent were active, but did not meet guidelines; 11 percent exercised regularly; and 4 percent were weekend warriors.

Above all, this study should hammer home just how important physical activity is for your health. Hopefully, it also re-emphasizes how personalized fitness can be. If lengthy weekend runs keep you sane, lace up. If post-work yoga classes help you unwind, hit the mat. Do whatever works for you—because, in the end, how and when you sweat matters a lot less than simply getting out there and doing it.