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Weekend exercise enough to stay fit – decade-long US cohort study

Good news for those who are desk-bound during the week and can only exercise on weekends: a US study has discovered that a big burst of exercise in just one or two sessions on your days off is as effective as spreading out your activity across the week.

The researchers tracked 350,000 people over 10 years to see how well so-called weekend warriors fared, reports BBC News, and the findings, in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, suggest the type and total amount of exercise count, rather than how many sessions.

At least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise is recommended, so a brisk walk, a light effort cycle on a bike or playing doubles in tennis would count towards this.

Or you could do 75 minutes of vigorous activity, something like running, swimming or playing a game of soccer, say health experts.

Many of the participants in the study clocked up this amount in a week. But some crammed it into one or two sessions rather than spacing it out.

Those who reached their recommended level of activity, whether during the week or the weekend, had a lower death risk than those who did less than the recommend amount.

Breathe harder

British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Joanne Whitmore said: “This large study suggests that, when it comes to exercise, it doesn’t matter when you do it.

“The most important thing is that physical activity is undertaken in the first place. Whether you cram your exercise in on the weekend or spread it across the week, exercise can improve your health, reducing your risk of heart and circulatory diseases like heart attack and stroke.

“Moderate-intensity activities make you breathe harder and make your heartbeat faster than usual but you should still be able to have a conversation while doing them.”

Study details

Association of the “Weekend Warrior” and Other Leisure-time Physical Activity Patterns With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Nationwide Cohort Study

Mauricio dos Santos, Gerson Ferrari, Dong Hoon Lee, et al

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine on 5 July 2022

Key Points
Question Does performing the recommended levels of weekly physical activity in 1 to 2 sessions (weekend warrior) vs 3 or more sessions (regularly active) influence mortality?
Findings This large prospective cohort study of 350,978 adults in the US did not find any significant difference in mortality rates between weekend warriors and regularly active participants. Compared with physically inactive participants, active participants (both weekend warrior and regularly active) had lower all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates.
Meaning Adults who perform 150 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) per week may experience similar health benefits whether the sessions are spread throughout the week or concentrated in a weekend.

Abstract

Importance It is unclear whether the weekly recommended amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) has the same benefits for mortality risk when activity sessions are spread throughout the week vs concentrated in fewer days.

Objective
To examine the association of weekend warrior and other patterns of leisure-time physical activity with all-cause and cause-specific mortality.

Design, Setting, and Participants
This large nationwide prospective cohort study included 350,978 adults who self-reported physical activity to the US National Health Interview Survey from 1997 to 2013. Participant data were linked to the National Death Index through December 31, 2015.

Exposures
Participants were grouped by self-reported activity level: physically inactive (<150 minutes per week [min/wk] of MVPA) or physically active (≥150 min/wk of moderate or ≥75 min/wk of vigorous activity). The active group was further classified by pattern: weekend warrior (1-2 sessions/wk) or regularly active (≥3 session/wk); and then, by frequency, duration/session, and intensity of activity.

Main Outcomes and Measures
All-cause, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer mortality. Statistical analyses were performed in April 2022.

Results
A total of 350,978 participants (mean [SD] age, 41.4 [15.2] years; 192,432 [50.8%] women; 209,432 [67.8%] Non-Hispanic white) were followed during a median of 10.4 years (3.6m person-years). There were 21,898 deaths documented, including 4,130 from CVD and 6,034 from cancer. Compared with physically inactive participants, hazard ratios (HR) for all-cause mortality were 0.92 (95% CI, 0.83-1.02) for weekend warrior and 0.85 (95% CI, 0.83-0.88) for regularly active participants; findings for cause-specific mortality were similar. Given the same amount of total MVPA, weekend warrior participants had similar all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates as regularly active participants. The HRs for weekend warrior vs regularly active participants were 1.08 (95% CI, 0.97-1.20) for all-cause mortality; 1.14 (95% CI, 0.85-1.53) for CVD mortality; and 1.07 (95% CI, 0.87-1.31) for cancer mortality.

Conclusions and Relevance
The findings of this large prospective cohort study suggest that individuals who engage in active patterns of physical activity, whether weekend warrior or regularly active, experience lower all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates than inactive individuals.
Significant differences were not observed for all-cause or cause-specific mortality between weekend warriors and regularly active participants after accounting for total amount of MVPA; therefore, individuals who engage in the recommended levels of physical activity may experience the same benefit whether the sessions are performed throughout the week or concentrated into fewer days.

 

BBC News article – Weekend burst of activity enough to stay (Open access)

 

JAMA Internal Medicine article – Association of the “Weekend Warrior” and Other Leisure-time Physical Activity Patterns With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Nationwide Cohort Study (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Increased exercise helps prevent heart disease and stroke in the elderly

 

No limit to benefits of exercise in reducing risk of CVD — UK Biobank cohort study

 

Leisure physical activity linked to health benefits but not work activity

 

 

 

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