For over a decade now, conventional wisdom holds that excessive sitting is a deadly activity and that we should be moving regularly throughout the day. Cue the standing desk revolution and a wave of guilt for those of us who want to get fit but are still tethered to their computers for 40 hours a week. Some studies have questioned whether endurance training can lessen the impact of constant sitting on vascular health, in particular, with mixed results.
Now, new research has emerged with clearer results and encouraging news for anyone who tends to exercise on the weekends.
A survey conducted by an international group of researchers, Posted in JAMA internal medicine this summer, found that when it comes to longevity, exercising only on weekends is enough to compensate for a sedentary lifestyle the rest of the week as long as you meet recommended guidelines for physical activity level – a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity. This confirms research conducted in the UK in 2017 which came to a similar conclusion on weekend warriors, albeit in a smaller study.
The new study analyzed data from 350,978 adults in the United States who reported their physical activity on an annual basis from 1997 to 2013. Based on the frequency, intensity and duration of their exercise, the individuals were categorized as either physically inactive or physically active, and those in the active group were either dubbed “weekend warriors” or “regularly active”. Researchers cross-referenced the National Death Index up to December 31, 2015 to track participant mortality.
There was no statistically significant difference in death rates between Weekend Warriors and regularly active participants, and both of these groups had lower death rates than inactive participants (even when broken down among all causes, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality). “We showed that weekend warriors can achieve comparable health benefits to regularly active people when a similar amount of overall activity is performed,” said study co-author Donghoon Lee. and research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health. London time. “Ideally it would be good to spread the exercise out over the week, but in the real world this may not be possible and our results have important implications for people who don’t find this practical.”
“In my opinion, the key here is that the total amount or dose of physical activity performed remains more important than any of the individual components, including the physical activity model such as the weekend warrior compared to regular weekly activity,” said Jonathan Stine, a professor of medicine at Penn State, who was not associated with the study.
Still, there are some caveats to the new findings. An obvious limitation of the study is that it relied on self-reported activity levels, which may or may not be accurate. But a small 2018 study looked at data from 3,438 people using accelerometers to objectively assess physical activity patterns and came to the same basic conclusion: People who exercise throughout the week don’t live longer than weekend warriors.
The optimal combination of frequency, intensity and duration of physical activity to reduce mortality risk remains poorly understood, but this research is a useful step. “Much of the evidence we have [about the health benefits of exercise] is always related to the total number of minutes throughout the week versus the number of sessions,” said Brad Prigge, wellness and activity assessment specialist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.
Prigge adds that while this latest study is encouraging, it’s important to look at more than just mortality risk. The new research doesn’t tell us whether people who exercise only on weekends can achieve the same improvements in fitness as people who exercise more frequently, or whether they’re more prone to injury.
Ultimately, no one disputes that if you want to feel better and be fitter, moving more is smart. “Something is always better than nothing,” says Prigge, adding that we should ask ourselves what he asks of his patients: “What is important to you and how do you feel?
If sitting at a desk for eight hours a day most of the week doesn’t affect your ability to do other things you enjoy, like hiking with your kids, running local 10Ks, or keeping up with your friends on weekend bike rides, so don’t worry.