By Mark Waghorn
BOSTON — Being a ‘weekend warrior’ boosts cardiovascular health as much as working out every day, according to new research.
People who cram exercise into one or two sessions on Saturdays and Sundays lower risk of developing the world’s number one killer.
What’s more, it aids them as much as peers who spread most moderate to vigorous exercise out.
Corresponding author Dr. Patrick Ellinor, of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, said: “Physical activity concentrated within one to two days was associated with similarly lower risk of cardiovascular outcomes to more evenly distributed activity.”
It protected against heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, and atrial fibrillation (Afib) – the most common form of irregular heartbeat.
At least 150 or 75 minutes of moderate or vigorous intensity respectively is advised for 18 to 64-year-olds.
So a person could meet prevailing guidelines with a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week or an hour and 15-minute jog once a week.
The findings in JAMA Internal Medicine are based on 89,573 participants in the UK Biobank which holds information on their genes and health.
They wore accelerometer wrist devices for a week and were tracked for an average of more than six years.
Afib cases and stroke were reduced by around a fifth, heart attacks a third, and heart failure by more than a third in both groups. This was compared to those who led couch-potato lifestyles.
It has implications for those who struggle to find time owing to work or family commitments.
They may find it easier to fit less frequent bouts of physical activity into a ‘busy, busy’ lifestyle.
The NHS recommends moderate to vigorous physical activity (MPVA) be spread evenly over four to five days a week – or every day.
It has remained unclear if ‘weekend warriors’ gain similar benefits as prior studies were limited by self-reported activity, modest sample sizes and a limited set of outcomes, such as mortality.
Dr. Ellinor said: “These study results have implications for efforts leveraging physical activity to reduce cardiovascular morbidity.”
The study identified a weekend warrior pattern as common – applying to more than half of active individuals.
Varying activity patterns were observed to have similar associations with lower risk of AFib, heart attck, heart failure and stroke.
Dr. Ellinor said: “These observations thereby extend prior work reporting improved cardiovascular outcomes with increasing moderate and vigorous activity as well as reports suggesting that concentrated physical activity is associated with similar reductionsin mortality to more regular activity.”
The findings suggest engagement in physical activity, regardless of pattern, may optimize risk across a broad spectrum of cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Ellinor said: “Third, efforts to increase physical activity for cardiovascular health may be effective even when such efforts are concentrated into one to two days per week.
“Because weekend warrior patterns may be more feasible for certain schedules, targeted interventions delivered over shorter timeframes may be more accessible.”
He added: “Within nearly 90 000 individuals providing wrist-based activity quantification, physical activity concentrated within one to two days was associated with similarly lower risk of cardiovascular outcomes to more regular activity.
“Future prospective studies are warranted to assess whether interventions to increase physical activity, even when concentrated within a day or two each week, improve cardiovascular outcomes.”
Rates of musculo-skeletal injuries were also similar in both groups – allaying concerns concentrated bursts of energy increase the risk.
A study of more than 350,000 adults in the US found mortality rates of ‘weekend warriors’ were just as low as those who exercised most days.
Both groups were less likely to succumb to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other killer illnesses than couch potatoes. They were followed for about a decade.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker