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Your Workout Days Don’t Matter. Your Minutes Do.

The truth about packing your workouts in on the weekends.

You need to work out, but you’re so swamped during the week you can’t find time to breathe, let alone squeeze in a session. It happens. Sometimes the best you can do is cram your workouts into the weekend.

Cram away, a new study suggests.

A large prospective cohort study followed more than 350,000 adults in the US for a decade seeking to understand if physical activity had the same benefits when spread throughout the week versus concentrated into one or two days (1).

When compared to physically inactive individuals, those who are active (both weekend warrior and regularly active) rack up the same benefits regardless of when they complete a workout session, the findings suggest.

 

Benefits of Working Out

Individuals who engage in active patterns of physical activity, whether weekend warriors or regularly active, experience lower all-cause mortality rates than inactive individuals, per the study.

Plus, active individuals are less likely to succumb to cause-specific mortality from heart disease, cancer, and other diseases than their couch potato counterparts, say the findings.

Regular exercise won’t just prolong your life; it improves your quality of life, too. According to the CDC regular exercise can improve brain health, help manage weight, strengthen muscles and bones, and improve your functional ability to do everyday activities.

 

How Long Should You Workout?

The study followed the CDC physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise a week.

You could meet these guidelines by going on a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week or participating in higher-intensity cardio like running or rowing for one hour and 15 minutes. If you’re packing sessions into the weekend or busy weeknights, vigorous-intensity activity is an easy way to rack up the benefits in half the time.

Although not included in the study, the CDC also recommends two days per week of muscle-strengthening activities focused on hitting all major muscle groups. Slash time by combining cardio and strength in a high-intensity strength circuit, or chase gains with more focused super sets.

Regardless of what you choose, you’ll want to rest muscle groups for at least 48 hours to give your muscles time to repair and rebuild before working them again. Weekend warriors might want to consider bumping at least one strength session to the week to maximize gains.

Get Your Exercise Whenever You Can 

If opportunities for daily or regular workouts are few and far between, don’t sweat it: “When performing the same amount of physical activity, spreading it over more days or concentrating it into fewer days may not influence mortality outcomes,” the study authors report.  

Squeeze in your workouts whenever you can, and you’ll see a big payout for your sweat equity.

1. Santos, M. et al (2022). Association of the “Weekend Warrior” and Other Leisure-time Physical Activity Patterns With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2794038

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