April 24, 2024

Weekend Workouts can be just as effective as exercising throughout the week

A recent study suggests that “weekend hero” exercise patterns, which focus on physical activity on one or two days per week, offer similar heart health benefits as spreading the exercise more evenly throughout the week. Both active groups showed lower risks of heart-related conditions compared to inactive individuals.

Compared to inactivity, weekend warriors or a more evenly distributed physical activity pattern were similarly associated with lower risks of heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm), and stroke.

People who find it challenging to allocate time for exercise during a busy work week can choose to focus their moderate to vigorous physical activity on one or two days of the week, usually over the weekend.

In a recent study conducted by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in JAMAthis “weekend hero” pattern was associated with a similar reduction in the risks of heart disease and stroke compared to exercise more evenly distributed throughout the week.

Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week for overall health. However, it is not certain whether this type of concentrated exercise provides the same benefits as a more even spread throughout the week.

The Largest Study on the Subject

“Our analysis represents the largest study to address this question,” says lead author Shaan Khurshid, MD, MPH, a faculty member in the Demoulas Center for Cardiac Arrhythmias at MGH.

Khurshid and colleagues analyzed data on 89,573 people from the UK Biobank prospective study. Study participants wore wrist accelerometers that recorded their total physical activity and time spent at various intensities over a full week.

Activity Patterns and Heart Health

The participants fell into three categories: 33.7% were inactive (less than 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week), 42.2% were active weekend warriors (at least 150 minutes, with at least half achieved in 1-2 days), and 24.0% active-regular (at least 150 minutes, with most exercise days spread out).

After adjustment for potential confounding factors, both active groups showed the same lower risks of heart attack (27% and 35% lower risks for active and active-regular weekend warriors, respectively, compared to the inactive group), heart failure (38% and 36% lower risks), atrial fibrillation (22% and 19% lower risks), and stroke (21% and 17% risks).

Implications and Future Research

“Our findings suggest that interventions to increase physical activity, even when targeted to just one or two days per week, may improve cardiovascular outcomes,” says senior author Patrick T. Ellinor, MD, PhD, acting chief of Cardiology and co-director of the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center at MGH.

The team is also considering assessing whether weekend warrior-type activity could be linked to reduced risks of a wider spectrum of diseases.

Reference: “Physical Activity and Incident Cardiovascular Disease of Accelerometer-Derived “Weekend Warriors” by Shaan Khurshid, MD, MPH; Mostafa A. Al-Alusi, MD; Timothy W. Churchill, MD; J. Sawalla Guseh, MD and Patrick T. Ellinor, MD, PhD, 18 July 2023, JAMA.
DOI: 10.1001/sam.2023.10875

Additional co-authors include Mostafa A. Al-Alusi, MD, Timothy W. Churchill, MD, and J. Sawalla Guseh, MD.

Support the National Institutes of HealthThe American Heart Association, the European Union, and the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

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