Turns Out The "Weekend Warrior" Workout Schedule Is A+ For Heart Health
Some movement is always better than none. However, once you get in the habit of exercising regularly, you'll probably begin to wonder how you can optimize this process to match your goals. If you're aiming for peak cardiac health, a new study finds the "weekend warrior" approach may be for you.
The "weekend warrior" exercise pattern benefits heart health
The "weekend warrior" approach essentially means keeping moderate to vigorous physical activity concentrated within one to two days rather than distributed over a week.
In a recent study published on JAMA Network1, researchers found that a "weekend warrior" pattern of physical activity was associated with similarly lower risks of atrial fibrillation (abnormal heartbeat), heart attack (myocardial infarction), heart failure, and stroke2 when compared with more evenly distributed physical activity.
The process included analyzing UK Biobank data from 89,573 individuals who provided a week's worth of physical cardio activity data. The participants had a mean age of 62, and 56% of them were women.
Researchers compared the "weekend warrior" approach to a regular workout schedule. However, both patterns included over 150 minutes of exercise per week, which is the CDC's recommended time for healthy adults3. They also looked at data from a group that completed less than 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week for control purposes.
In the end, moderate to vigorous physical activity had about the same positive effect on cardiac health risks when completed in a one- or two-day span or spread out over a week.
What this means for you
This finding is significant because it proves that completing more than 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week is beneficial for your health, even if it's just packed into one or two days.
That's not to say you shouldn't prioritize micro-movements throughout the week whenever you can—but you don't need to sweat it if you aren't able to sneak as many in as usual.
This is especially great for folks who have their weekday evenings packed with work, child care, or other commitments. If your weekend is relatively free and you can squeeze in one or two workouts, your heart won't necessarily know the difference.
That being said, this study analyzed cardiovascular health, which is only one benefit of working out. If your goals are to build muscle, burn fat, or relieve stress, these findings can't fully be directly applied. This doesn't necessarily mean the "weekend warrior" style won't work for those purposes, but this specific study doesn't stretch beyond cardiovascular benefits.
The best workout schedule for you depends on your goals, your other time commitments, and what you find joyful. So if you want to experiment with the "weekend warrior" lifestyle, proceed knowing that you can, in fact, reap equal cardiovascular benefits.
As for everyone else, remember that exercise, like your diet, should be tailored to your preferences.
A recent study found that completing more than 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise within a one- or two-day span has similar cardiovascular benefits when compared to evenly distributed exercise. Here, a bit more on why exercise is so great for heart health.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including skin care, women’s health, mental health, sustainability, social media trends, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends and innovations, women’s health research, brain health news, and plenty more.