The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 days a week to get maximum health benefits from exercising. But there are a number of people who are turning their weekends into non-stop exercise sessions and staying away from the gym entirely during the week.
These weekday couch potatoes that morph into Saturday and Sunday athletes are referred to as weekend warriors. They certainly earn their title as warriors. They take off on long bike rides, play long sessions of racquetball or hike up steep mountains for hours before coming home to a hot shower on Saturday and Sunday. They feel good getting their heart rate up and flexing their muscles after a long week at the office, but are they really getting health benefits when they’re active only on the weekends?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes. These warriors may not lose a lot of weight or build lean body mass doing this kind of routine, but weekend only workouts have health benefits. Researchers at Harvard University followed 8,421 men between the ages of 50 and 70 over a 10 year period. These guys burned 1,000 extra calories a week doing one or two exercise sessions in a fashion similar to what weekend warriors do. The results? The men were 60% less likely to die over a 10-year period than their more sedentary counterparts.
There are risks to being a weekend warrior too. Research shows that overweight or obese men with a high risk of heart disease are more likely to die of a heart attack after one of these sessions. So, weekend warriors should make sure they’re healthy before running a half-marathon on the weekend after sitting at a desk all week. Weekend warriors are also at greater risk for overuse injuries since their two days of exercise isn’t enough to build the strength and flexibility needed to ward off injuries.
For people of normal weight who are healthy and at low risk for heart disease, working out on the weekend is better than sitting on the couch. The 1,000 or so extra calories weekend warriors burn on Saturday and Sunday helps to prevent age-related weight gain. It also helps to ease the stress of a long work week.
To maximize the benefits of weekend workouts and reduce the risk of injury, aspiring weekend warriors should do at least one or two strength training sessions during the week to reduce the risk of being sidelined by an injury. Strength training greatly reduces the risk of rotator cuff tears, tendinitis, sprains and ligament tears that are common in episodic exercisers and weekend warriors. It’s also a good idea for people over the age of 40 to check with a doctor before doing a marathon weekend exercise session. Some people try to make up for a week’s worth of sitting in only 2 days, which means they overdo it in many cases.
The bottom line? It’s better to space activity out over the week than it is to be a weekend warrior, but even weekend only workouts have some health benefits. Stay active on the weekend, but try to sneak in a few extra sessions during the week to reduce the risk of injury and increase the health benefits of exercise even more.
Rehab Management. “Physical Activity Plan Can Help Weekend Athletes Allay Overuse Injuries”
Prevention.com. “Weekend Warrior Benefits”