'Weekend warrior' workouts just as good as daily exercise, study shows

Getting any amount of exercise is better than none. (Getty Images)
Getting any amount of exercise is better than none. (Getty Images)

If you find working out throughout the week difficult because of a busy work and social life, don’t fret, new research says - you can pack in all your exercise on the weekend and still lead a healthy, active lifestyle.

People who exercise more than the daily recommended guidelines over Saturdays and Sundays - dubbed "weekend warriors" - can reap the benefits of regular exercise like fat-burning, researchers from China have found.

Physical activity guidelines from both the World Health Organisation and the NHS recommend adults do "some type of physical activity every day", with at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activity or 75 minutes of vigorously intense activity a week.

Moderate exercise is any activity that makes you breathe faster than normal but you can still hold a conversation, while intense exercise makes you breathe hard and fast. You shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation easily when carrying out the latter.

The guidelines also say people should "spread exercise evenly over four to five days a week, or every day".

Diverse young people wearing sportswear practicing yoga at group lesson, stretching in Utthan Pristhasana pose on mats, doing Lizard exercise, working out in modern yoga studio, center
Exercising every day is recommended, but not always possible for everyone. (Getty Images)

But the new study, published in the research journal Obesity, found that, among 20 to 59-year-old participants, both weekend warriors and regular exercisers had lower body fat, lower body mass index (BMI) and smaller waist circumferences compared to those who were inactive.

Lihua Zhang, corresponding author of the study and healthcare scientist at the National Centre for Cardiovascular Diseases, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, wrote that promoting the "weekend warrior" workout pattern could be beneficial for “individuals who cannot meet the recommended frequency in current guidelines”.

"Our results indicated that there was no difference between the weekend warrior pattern and regularly active pattern in abdominal and general adiposity (fat)," Zhang told CNN in an email.

The study also suggested that women, particularly younger women, may benefit the most from weekend warrior workouts. Female weekend warrior participants were associated with "much lower BMI" compared to their counterparts, the study authors said.

However, the analysis found that weekend warriors tend to exercise harder and for longer than those who regularly worked out throughout the week.

On average, weekend warriors spent 147.6 minutes in each exercise session over the two-day weekend period. This nearly hits the total 150 minutes of activity recommended for the entire week within just two days.

The study suggested that health guidelines be altered to inform the public that "total physical activity time that is distributed evenly or concentrated into one or two days per week both could be effective".

It also reinforces previous studies that found any amount of exercise is better than none. Last year, a study published in the European Heart Journal found that any activity, even just standing, is better for your heart than sitting down.

Authors of the previous study highlighted the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle - an estimated 39% of UK adults, according to the British Heart Foundation - and wrote that "a greater proportion of time spent sedentary was detrimentally associated with all outcomes".

Watch: Study Shows How to Offset the Impact of Prolonged Sitting

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