Some Exercise Is Good, Even if It’s Only on Weekends

Moderate-intensity exercise once or twice weekly is associated with lower risk for premature death.

Most guidelines on exercise to promote health and longevity recommend moderate-to-vigorous−intensity activity several days weekly. Benefits of exercise performed 1 or 2 days weekly (usually on weekends, the so-called weekend-warrior pattern) are less clear. In this study, researchers linked health-behavior survey data from nearly 64,000 English and Scottish adults (mean age, 57) with national mortality data. Participants were classified as inactive (63%), insufficiently active (22%), weekend warriors (4%), and regularly active (11%). Weekend warriors were defined as those who performed at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity weekly during one or two sessions; regularly active participants performed the same amount of activity in three or more sessions. Insufficiently active participants exercised at lower-than-recommended levels.

During mean follow-up of nearly 9 years, more than 8800 participants died. After adjusting for chronic diseases, health risk factors, and demographic variables, all-cause mortality was significantly lower among those who were insufficiently active (hazard ratio, 0.69), weekend warriors (HR, 0.70), or regularly active (HR, 0.65) than among inactive participants. Relative risk reductions for cardiovascular-related death were similar to those for all-cause mortality; relative risk for cancer-related death was lowered somewhat less, but with similar relations among groups.