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Weekend warriors put up a fight against death

Cramming all your exercise into one or two bouts per week still reaps health benefits

3:36pm, February 7, 2017
man sweating while working out

ON THE MOVE  For people 40 an older, getting some exercise is linked to a reduced risk of early death compared with getting no exercise at all.

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Any exercise — even the weekend warrior approach, cramming it all into Saturday and Sunday — is better than none. Compared with inactive adults, those who got the recommended amount of weekly exercise, or even substantially less, had about a one-third lower risk of death during the study period, researchers report online January 9 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Gary O’Donovan at the University of Leicester in England and colleagues analyzed data from 63,591 people ages 40 and older, surveyed between 1994 and 2012 as part of the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey. Adults should be getting 150 minutes of moderate activity (such as walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (such as jogging) spread out across the week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Measured against people who did absolutely nothing, active people who worked up a sweat three or more times per week, weekend warriors and even those who moved less (60 minutes per week on average) all reduced their risk of dying early. The observational study can't say that exercise caused the reduced risk, just that there's an association.

Good reason to get moving

Of the 63,591 adults surveyed, almost 63 percent were inactive, 22 percent were insufficiently active (exercising less than 150 minutes per week), about 4 percent counted as weekend warriors and 11 percent were regularly active (exercising more than 150 minutes on week days). With exercise, risk of death from cardiovascular disease and from cancer decreased.

physical activity vs. mortality risk

Source: G. O’Donovan et al/JAMA Internal Medicine 2017


G. O’Donovan et al. Association of “weekend warrior” and other leisure time physical activity patterns with risks for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online January 9, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.8014.

H. Arem and L. DiPietro. Physical activity on the weekend: can it wait until then? JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online January 9, 2017. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.8050.

Further Reading

A. McDermott. Endurance training leaves no memory in muscles. Science News Online. September 22, 2016.

L. Sanders. Activity trackers fall short in weight-loss trial. Science News Online. September 20, 2016.

B. Brookshire. Exercise helps you get in shape for old age. Science News Online. July 14, 2016.

B. Brookshire. High-intensity interval training has great gains — and pain. Science News Online. January 5, 2016.

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