What Is A "Weekend Warrior?" Turns Out You'll Probably Be Just Fine If You Only Work Out On The Weekend
It's a question those of us with busy schedules have all probably asked ourselves at least once: Does the “weekend warrior” lifestyle work? That is, if you only work out on the weekends, is it actually going to do anything for your health? Happily, the answer is good news for those of us who would really like to have a regular workout schedule, but have trouble fitting it in during the work week due to, y’know, everything else we’ve got going on (adulting is time-consuming): According to research, even if you only work out on the weekends, you’ll still reap the benefits of all that activity. Hoorah!
The study supporting this idea isn’t new — it first hit the internet in January of 2017 — but it’s making the rounds again, so let’s take another look at it. Published in the Journal of American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, the study examined medical data for 63,581 adults in England and Scotland who were 40 years or older between 1994 and 2012. About 9,000 of the study participants died during those 18 years. Each adult’s level of activity fell into one of three categories — inactive (that is, folks who didn’t exercise), weekend warrior (those who exercised only on the weekends), or regularly active (those who worked out throughout the week).
The results showed that both weekend warriors and those in the regularly active category enjoyed the same kinds of benefits from their activity levels: Regularly active people had a 35 percent lower risk of death than those who were inactive, as well as 41 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death and 21 percent lower risk of cancer death in particular; meanwhile, weekend warriors had a 30 percent lower risk of death, as well as 40 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death and 18 percent lower risk of cancer death — that is, the numbers were about the same, regardless as to whether people spread their physical activity out over the week, or whether they fit it all in on the weekends.
There are, however, a few caveats to keep in mind. Science of Us spoke to Steven McDaniels, who is Beacon College’s director of fitness and athletics, who noted that weekend warriors “might be more prone to things like musculoskeletal issues, or muscle strain.” Additionally, if you spend all week being mostly inactive (hi there, desk job), you “might get injured or fatigue early” if you go the weekend warrior route, he said. But, McDaniels also acknowledged that every little bit helps: “If a person can only work out on the weekends and get whatever level of physical activity they can without over-training, that’s a good thing,” he said. For reference, it’s recommended by the Department of Health and Human that the average adult get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week — wherein “moderate” activity might be something like a brisk walk, while “vigorous” activity might be biking, swimming, running, or the like.
Furthermore, it’s worth remembering that not everyone has the same abilities, needs, and desires, and that's absolutely fine. As Bustle’s Marissa Higgins put it back in January:
No matter what your needs are … how often you exercise — and, indeed, whether you do it at all — is a choice you make for yourself. As such, there's no need to feel pressured to do what your body isn't ready for, or what you simply don't want to prioritize at any given time. Your body, your choice!
And hey, let’s not forget that if you’re interested in getting a little more active, but aren’t keen on the whole hitting-the-gym thing, there are loads of activities you can do that will get you moving without feeling like you’re “working out.” Everything from cleaning your apartment to having sex counts as “moderate” activity — and sometimes, it’s a lot more fun than staring at the same spot on the wall while running on a treadmill.
What it all comes down to is... well, the same thing it always comes down to: You do you, whether that's hitting the gym Monday through Friday or not.