Some people cram all of their weekly exercise into their weekends after sedentary weekdays in the (home) office. A new study has found that these so-called ‘weekend warriors’ are no worse off than those who spread their exercise evenly across the week.
Weekend warriors vs. regular runners
Daily exercise became remarkably common during lockdown when we were all allowed out once per day to exercise in our local areas. This stipulation in the rules led to many exercising more than they used to as a reason to get out of the house; where we once may have gone for coffee or popped to the shops for a change of scenery, many took up walking, running or biking as an excuse for some fresh air.
Once restrictions lifted and we all returned to a degree of normality, many of us returned to old habits. Working from home has meant many of us are exercising less than we used to now that we no longer have to travel to and from our workplaces. Going to the gym during the week is easier to do if you’re already out of the house and at the office – chances are, if you have a gym membership, you chose a gym near your workplace for precisely this reason.
For those of us who work sedentary jobs Monday to Friday each week, one of the easiest ways to get our exercise in is to get active over the weekend. However, it has been heavily debated whether this pattern of active weekends and sedentary weekdays is enough to keep us fit. This new US study has finally provided us with answers:
‘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.’
Whether they were ‘weekend warriors’ or active 3 or more days a week, active participants who undertook 150+ minutes of moderate physical activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) each week all fared better than physically inactive participants. This is very good news for those of us who don’t have the time or energy to fit exercise in on our work days and will hopefully encourage more of us to get active over the weekend.
Prescribing physical activity
The NHS recommends spreading exercise over 4 to 5 days a week, or even exercising every day, but this is not always possible for everyone. It has been recommended that clinicians prescribe physical activity and moderate-intensity exercise to older adults as this has been found to help slow the rate of decline of kidney function.
If you struggle to find the time and energy to exercise consistently each day, this new study will hopefully bring a bit of reassurance that you can still reap the benefits of exercise in the time you have available. If you work a sedentary job, getting up from your desk regularly and stretching can do wonders; even walking around the house or the office at frequent intervals can help prevent muscle stiffness and even help improve your concentration.
Strengthening exercises can be easy to build into your routine. ‘Strengthening exercise’ is not exclusively daunting things like weightlifting in the gym – it includes heavy gardening, lifting or carrying your children, wheeling your wheelchair, pilates, yoga, and even just carrying heavy shopping.
If you’re a carer, it will likely be harder to find the time, energy, or motivation to exercise. 76% of carers that Carers UK spoke to reported that they ‘are not able to do as much physical exercise as they’d like.’ Carers UK and Sport England are working to develop a dedicated Carers Active programme and are campaigning for this to be a regular component of the support offered to carers. In the meantime, there are locally organised groups across the country that help you find a community of carers to exercise with.
The final verdict
Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and can be massively beneficial as we age. Regardless of when we get our physical activity in, 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity is a good target to aim for to keep fit and healthy.
The 150-minute weekly exercise guideline is specifically for adults. Children and young people should be active for around an hour each day and toddlers should get at least 180 minutes of physical activity each day.
‘When it comes to exercise, it doesn’t matter when you do it,’ commented British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Joanne Whitmore. ‘The most important thing is that physical activity is undertaken in the first place.’
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