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Weekend Warrior vs. Regularly Active: A Comparison of Physical Activity Frequency in Decreasing Mortality

11 August 2018


Background: Physical activity has long been known to be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. It has been shown to reduce risk of early mortality and play a vital role in increasing health span. Although physical activity is one of the most consistent and effective lifestyle choices that can positively impact health, physical inactivity has become the fourth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide. Reasons for inactivity vary, but among the more common barriers, lack of time is one of the most prevalent and modifiable reason for not meeting physical activity guidelines. To manage time commitments, some individuals choose to compress their physical activity into 1 or 2 sessions per week. Those who practice this condensed form of physical activity pattern have been termed “weekend warriors.” Since weekend warriors do not meet the WHO recommended frequency, this raises the question, can being a weekend warrior decrease mortality as effectively as the regularly active?

Methods: A comprehensive search of medical literature was completed using MEDLINE-Ovid, Web of Science, and CINAHL with key words weekend warrior,exercise and mortality. Relevant studies that met inclusion criteria were assessed for quality with the GRADE Working Group guidelines.

Results: Two articles met the inclusion criteria, both of which were prospective cohort studies. The two studies examined similar primary outcomes, one study expanding on the research of the other. The results were fairly consistent between the two studies. One study found that when adjusted for health risk factors, weekend warriors had a 59% decrease in mortality vs. 42% decrease in those regularly active. The other study found despite obesity and major health risk factors, decrease in mortality of weekend warriors was only slightly inferior to those who were regularly active, 30% vs. 35%, respectively.

Conclusion: The two studies provide evidence that physical activity, regardless of it being less than recommended guidelines, or when it meets recommended guidelines in shorter bouts of frequency, can decrease mortality and offer considerable health benefit— even in the obese and those with major risk factors. However, due to the very low quality of both studies, further research is required to validate the results and to determine whether being a true long term weekend warrior is a beneficial physical activity regimen that can offer long term health outcomes.

Keywords: weekend warrior, exercise, mortality


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