Increasing your participation in exercise, comes with a direct increase in health benefits conferred; we all know this to be true. However the extent of our health is not solely dependent on our exercise regime. The way we pace out our weekly exercise regime can significantly change our overall health. In particular, athletes labeled as “weekend warriors”, people who fulfill the recommended amount of exercise in only one or two outings, are labeled as higher risk of developing health issues compared to people who exercise 4-5 times a week.
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that Canadians between the age of 18 and 64 have at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity each week (1). If this is stretched out to five exercise days a week, this equates to about 30 minutes per day of cardiovascular activity. Weekend warriors achieve their recommended amount by exercising for 2 hours or more in a single round, but only once or twice a week (2). The problem here is not that they are exercising for too long. It is perfectly healthy to exercise for two hours in a single session; but only if your body is prepared for it. If our bodies are not used to having long exercise days there can be an increased risk of complications while exercising, for example muscle or heart injuries. A study conducted at Keio University in Japan discovered that while ‘weekend warriors’ have a lower mortality rate compared to sedentary people (about 15% less), they actually have an increased mortality risk when compared to people who exercise more than 3 times per week, and people who exercise infrequently (36% and 25% decrease respectively) (2). The reason for this increased mortality risk as compared to people who do not exercise the recommended amount, yet aren’t completely sedentary, is because they are putting their bodies through shock every time they exercise. As they spend more days being sedentary, when they do exercise, they push their bodies too hard, and this may lead to an increased risk of health complications.
Another matter to consider is the nutritional lifestyle of the weekend warriors. A study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin compared weekend warriors to both regular and irregular exercisers, and discovered that on average weekend warriors weighed more than the other two categories (3). The study also discovered that on average, weekend warriors were more likely to eat red meat daily and not meet the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (3).These discoveries lead into another study, where researchers tracked elders who were classified as either obese or overweight (4). During testing, 73% of the subjects reported having meals with big serving sizes (4). While the patients underwent 5 months of exercise therapy, their eating habits remained unchanged, and the resulting weight loss was minimal; on average about 1.3kg were lost per person, and only 4.5% body fat was lost (4). Perhaps these lack of results were because their nutritional intake did not improve, even though they did exercise more. This explains why weekend warriors weigh more than people who exercise less than them, as their diet tends to be heavier. As we all know, exercising cannot erase the harm we do to our bodies when we eat unhealthy food. It takes a balance of both consistent exercise and a nutritional diet in order to live a healthy lifestyle.
The main problem that weekend warriors face is finding the time to exercise during the workweek. Thus exercise is put off until the weekend, and generally a hard workout is done to make up for the fact that nothing was done Monday-Friday. Perhaps these athletes feel like they need to do an intense workout every time, but that is not true. A 20 minute walk 3 times a week, plus a high intensity workout could help solve the problems of these individuals. If this is still not attainable because of time constraints, perhaps decreasing the intensity of the workout done on the weekend would minimize harm done.
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. Retrieved on December 11th 2015. www.csep
Lee, I., Sesso, H. D., Oguma, Y., Paffenbarger R. S. (2004). The “Weekend Warrior” and Risk Mortality. American Journal of Epidemiology, 160(7), 636-641.
Kohl, H. W. (2005). The Elderly “Weekend Warrior” and Risk of Mortality. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 15(3), 201-202.
Ha, A. W., Kim, J. H., Shin, D. J., Choi, D. W., Park, S. J., Kang, N. E., Kim Y.S., Eating habits, obesity related behaviours and effects of Danhak exercise in elderly Koreans. Nutrition Research and Practice,