Weekend warriors: why exercise doesn’t have to be regular to be good for you

Name: Weekend warriors.

Age: 41.

Who is 41? The average weekend warrior. Well, 41 is the average age of a bunch of adults in America who were part of an approximately 10-year study led by Jiangnan University in China.

Big bunch, was it? 350,978 adults. So yeah, I think we can treat this study with a certain amount of respect.

Respect duly granted. So what’s it all about? Are we talking about those people who dress as Roman soldiers or Arthurian knights and have mock battles at weekends? Er, no, different kind of weekend warrior. Nor are they terracotta. We’re talking about exercise here.

Go on. So the people in the study are all people who do 150 minutes a week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise …

Seems like a lot. Not really, it’s what public health officials recommend.

Does Call of Duty count as moderate exercise, or vigorous? Neither. Vigorous means running, swimming, playing football – stuff that makes you breathe fast and it’s hard to talk while doing it. Moderate means you’re still breathing faster but you can talk, and includes brisk walking and cutting the grass. Anyway, they were divided into two groups …

With 175,489 in each? Well done, you can count! One group was the people who are “regularly active”, meaning they hit those targets in three or four sessions a week. And the other group were the people who get it all done in one or two sessions a week.

The so-called “weekend warriors”? Exactly. Like the person who plays one game of football on a Sunday and nothing else. I guess a vigorous battle reenactment would do it too, especially if you were wearing chain mail.

And what did they find? They compared death rates over the 10 years for the two groups – those exercising regularly and the weekend warriors doing the same amount of exercise but concentrated into one or two sessions – and they found the rates to be similar.

Summarise please? The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, concluded: “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.”

And for those of us who might not do the recommended amount of exercise at all – neither vigorous nor moderate, neither spread out over the week nor concentrated into the weekend? Bad news. Higher death rates. Markedly so, but you knew that.

Got it. So I definitely need to get up off my arse, but it could be less often and for longer. Exactly.

Do say: “And it means less washing of sports kit. Everyone’s a winner, even the planet.”

Don’t say: “I’m actually a bit busy this Saturday, and Sunday. Maybe next weekend …”


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