The Weekend Warrior
Many of you will be familiar with the colloquial phrase for individuals only active on the weekend – the weekend warrior. Such individuals are those that make time for a long cycle or golf game on their Saturday or Sunday. They are individuals that understand the importance of activity, but cannot fit it into their weekly schedule.
Doing something is better than nothing. However, findings from a 2004 paper (yes, I know it’s old, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant) found that weekend warriors categorized as high-risk (i.e. smokers, overweight, had a history of hypertension and/or hypercholesterolemia) were at an increased risk of all-cause mortality relative to high-risk sedentary individual (expending less than 500 calories per week) and high-risk insufficiently active individuals (expending between 500-999 calories per week).
How can we explain such seemingly backward findings? The authors of the paper suggest that the benefits associated with exercise in this high-risk group may be short-lived. Yet, isn’t something still better than doing nothing (i.e. being sedentary)? Even if the benefit is short-lived, there is still more benefit than that accrued from sitting on your behind, no?
I hypothesize that men in this high-risk category who exercise for longer and more intense durations on an irregular basis may be putting increased strain on their heart, more than they would be placing on the vessel by sitting. Such exertion, on an already strained heart (due to smoking and/or obesity for example) may contribute to an increased incidence of CVD events that may, in turn, lead to an increased incidence of mortality.
So what is the take away message? If you’re a smoker and obese you shouldn’t engage in any activity because you are more likely to die? Definitely not. The take away message here is that regular exercise is much better than irregular weekend warrior-style activity in high-risk men. High risk-men who engaged in regular exercise had close to a 40% reduction in risk for all-cause mortality.
All in all, the message is the same – regular exercise is the key to success. While weekend warrior-style activity is OK for individuals categorized as low-risk (i.e. non-smoker, normal weight, etc.) it is not OK for a growing proportion of North American adults.
Lee I., et al. The “weekend warrior” and risk of mortality. Am J Epidemiol 2004;160(7):636-641.