Week­end war­riors ... just keep on do­ing your thing

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - YOU - AMBY BURFOOT

Health and fit­ness ex­perts have long de­scribed “week­end war­riors” in a mildly neg­a­tive way. They used the term for in­di­vid­u­als who ex­er­cised ir­reg­u­larly, per­haps in week­end pickup games. They warned of mus­cle strains, or much worse — some­thing akin to the heart at­tacks suf­fered by those who oc­ca­sion­ally shovel snow. Week­end war­rior meant, more or less, “knuck­le­head.”

But no more. A large new study in JAMA In­ter­nal Medicine has re­vealed large mor­tal­ity ben­e­fits for all man­ner of week­end war­riors.

Those who worked out once or twice a week had a 30 per cent lower mor­tal­ity rate (dur­ing the study pe­riod, from 1994 to 2012) than those who didn’t ex­er­cise at all. De­spite their in­fre­quent work­outs, these in­di­vid­u­als ex­ceeded the 150 min­utes a week of mod­er­ate to vig­or­ous ex­er­cise ad­vo­cated by U.S. and world health or­ga­ni­za­tions. In that re­gard, their good re­sults might have been ex­pected.

The study was based on more than 63,000 Bri­tish and Scot­tish adults with an av­er­age age of 58. A re­search team from the U.K., Aus­tralia and Har­vard Univer­sity col­lab­o­rated on the analysis.

“We were sur­prised to find that car­dio­vas­cu­lar and can­cer mor­tal­ity were also lower among the week­end war­riors,” says lead au­thor Gary O’Dono­van, from Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity in Eng­land. “In­ter­est­ingly, we also found the ben­e­fits are much the same in men and women.”

An­other sub­group of the 63,000, termed the “in­suf­fi­cient ex­er­cis­ers,” fared just as well as the week­end war­riors. The in­suf­fi­cients ac­cu­mu­lated only 60 min­utes of ex­er­cise per week, less than half of the rec­om­mended amount. Yet they reaped a 31 per cent lower mor­tal­ity rate ver­sus the non-ex­er­cis­ers.

The great­est re­wards came to those who ex­er­cised three or more times a week. These in­di­vid­u­als tended to go longer and slower than less-fre­quent ex­er­cis­ers but logged im­pres­sive weekly to­tals of about 450 min­utes. They had a 35 per cent lower all-cause mor­tal­ity rate.

“This study is im­por­tant be­cause it tells us that the to­tal amount of ex­er­cise, rather than how of­ten it is done, is the rel­e­vant fac­tor,” co-au­thor and Har­vard epi­demi­ol­o­gist IMin Lee says. “It gives per­mis­sion, if you will, to be a week­end war­rior. How­ever, we would pre­fer reg­u­lar ac­tiv­ity over the week to de­crease the risk of in­juries.”

The JAMA ar­ti­cle did not track the in­ci­dence of in­jury.

A large ma­jor­ity of the sub­jects, 63 per cent, re­ported no ex­er­cise, while 22 per cent were la­belled in­suf­fi­cient ex­er­cis­ers. The week­end war­riors amounted to just 3.7 per cent of the to­tal sub­ject pop­u­la­tion, but that equated to 2,341 peo­ple, thanks to the study’s large size.

Eleven per cent of sub­jects were reg­u­lar ex­er­cis­ers, get­ting in three or more work­outs per week.

STAN HONDA/GETTY IMAGES/FILES

Week­end war­riors had a 30 per cent lower mor­tal­ity rate than those who didn’t ex­er­cise at all.

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