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How Being A Weekend-Warrior Can Reduce Risk Of Death By 30%

It is no secret that exercise is a critical component of overall health and fitness. However, in today’s world time constraints may perceptually be a barrier to routine physical activity. A busy parent may find it hard to participate in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (per week) when juggling work, kids, social engagements, and adequate sleep. Many individuals utilize the weekend to catch up on rest, work and play. Thankfully that same application can be used with exercise. Recent research has shown that only 2 bouts of aerobic exercise per week was enough to reduce all-cause mortality by 30% compared to inactive adults.1,2 A 60-minute bike ride with the family on Saturday, 30 minute jog Sunday morning, and 60 minutes of flag football in the backyard Sunday afternoon would easily satisfy this criteria. Additionally, as far back as 1982 Hickson and Rosenkoetter demonstrated that cardiovascular fitness could be maintained with only 2 sessions of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.3 These studies (and many others) illuminate not only the powerful effects of weekend exercise but just how easy it may be to see positive health benefits. Of course, more exercise or more vigorous exercise is typically better. To make the application easier for the general population, healthcare providers have developed a “good” and “better” approach. An illustration being 20 minutes of casual biking may be “good,” but 20 minutes of running is “better.” So while routine exercise may be a luxury for some, there are significant benefits of being a weekend warrior when it comes to aerobic training!

From an experiential standpoint, an argument may be made that individuals do not notice immediate repercussions of poor physical fitness. The key word in this statement is “immediate.” There is incontrovertible evidence supporting the benefits of exercise in the reduction of cardiovascular-related death, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, obesity, and cancer. Middle-aged women that participate in less than 1 hour of exercise per week have a 52% higher risk for all cause mortality and a 29% higher risk in cancer-related death than women who routinely participate in greater than 1 hour of exercise per week.4 Additionally, exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and profoundly reduce the negative impacts associated with diabetes. One study demonstrated that men with type II diabetes who are physically inactive are 1.7 times more likely to die prematurely compared to active members of the same patient population.5 Physical inactivity can also influence cancer risk. Individuals participating in routine physical activity were 30-40% less likely to have colon cancer than their inactive counterparts.6 Also, physically active women have a 20-30% lower risk of breast cancer than women who are inactive.6 Furthermore, a concerning fact of life that many women will face is osteoporosis/osteopenia which is where bones become brittle and more susceptible to fracture. There is substantial evidence supporting the benefits of weight training in pre- and postmenopausal women. Weight training and load bearing exercise have been discovered to prevent and even reverse the anticipated 1% loss in bone mass each year.7 These studies amongst a myriad of others elucidate the importance of physical activity in the reduction of health risk.

Now you have a deeper understanding of why exercise is important. So, where do we go from here? Well, hopefully you are dusting off the old running shoes and rummaging through the attic for the Richard Simmons VHS. But before we get started there are a few things to consider:

  • Number 1: it is important to consult your primary care provider to discuss the medications that you are currently taking. As your overall health and fitness improves, the medications you take may need to be modified to better suit your health needs.

  • Number 2: if you have been inactive for some time your body will respond with an increase in soreness based upon the activity performed. This is normal and will most likely pass within 2-3 days. However persistent pain that does not resolve within several days may indicate tissue irritation that may benefit from physical therapy to address and promote your return to exercise activities.

  • Number 3: If you have pre-existing neurological, cardiovascular or musculoskeletal conditions, it will be beneficial for you to have guided physical therapy to manage these conditions and help you in the process of achieving your health and fitness goals.

Armed with the knowledge that you now possess you are ready to drastically improve your health and fitness efficiently as a “weekend warrior”! I wish you the best on your journey.

References: 1. O’Donovan G, Lee I-M, Hamer M, Stamatakis E. Association of “Weekend Warrior” and Other Leisure Time Physical Activity Patterns With Risks for All-Cause, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2017;177(3):335. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.8014. 2. O’donovan G, Sarmiento OL, Hamer M. The Rise of the “Weekend Warrior.” Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2018;48(8):604-606. doi:10.2519/jospt.2018.0611. 3. Hickson RC, Kanakis C, Davis JR, Moore AM, Rich S. Reduced training duration effects on aerobic power, endurance, and cardiac growth. Journal of Applied Physiology. 1982;53(1):225-229. doi:10.1152/jappl.1982.53.1.225. 4. Hu FB, Willett WC, Li T, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Manson JE. Adiposity as Compared With Physical Activity in Predicting Mortality Among Women. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 2005;60(5):311-312. doi:10.1097/01.ogx.0000160575.50215.93. 5. Wei M, Gibbons LW, Kampert JB, Nichaman MZ, Blair SN. Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Physical Inactivity as Predictors of Mortality in Men with Type 2 Diabetes. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2000;132(8):605. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-132-8-200004180-00002 6. Lee I-M. Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention??? Data from Epidemiologic Studies. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2003;35(11):1823-1827. doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000093620.27893.23. 7. Wolff I, Croonenborg JJV, Kemper HCG, Kostense PJ, Twisk JWR. The Effect of Exercise Training Programs on Bone Mass: A Meta-analysis of Published Controlled Trials in Pre- and Postmenopausal Women. Osteoporosis International. 1999;9(1):1-12. doi:10.1007/s001980050109.


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