“Weekend warriors” who perform all of their physical activity in 1 or 2 sessions during the week may still reduce their risks of all-cause, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer mortality, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Gary O’Donovan, PhD, from the School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences, National Center for Sport and Exercise and Health Medicine, Loughborough University, UK, and colleagues conducted a pooled analysis of household-based surveillance studies to investigate the association between weekend warrior exercise patterns and the risk of all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality.

The study included 11 cohorts of respondents to the Health Survey for England and Scottish Health Survey. The data were collected between 1994 and 2012 and included respondents older than 40 years of age.

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The participants self-reported leisure time physical activity. They were considered inactive if they reported no moderate or vigorous-intensity activities and insufficiently active if they reported <150 minutes per week in moderate-intensity and <75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activities. Weekend warriors reported ≥150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity or ≥75 minutes per week of vigorous activities from 1 or 2 sessions, and regularly active participants reported ≥150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity or ≥75 minutes per week of vigorous activities from more than 3 sessions.

“Little was known about the benefits of a low frequency of physical activity,” the study authors noted. “One of the most striking findings in the present study was that 1 or 2 sessions per week of moderate or vigorous-intensity leisure time physical activity was sufficient to reduce all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality risks regardless of adherence to prevailing physical activity guidelines.”

From the 63,591 respondents included in the analysis, 8,802 deaths occurred from all causes, 2,780 occurred from CVD, and 2,526 occurred from cancer during 561,159 person-years of follow-up.

The hazard ratio (HR) for all cause-mortality in insufficiently active participants who reported 1 or 2 sessions per week was 0.66 compared with the inactive participants. In addition, the HR for all-cause-mortality was 0.70 in weekend warriors and 0.65 in regularly active participants compared with the inactive participants.

Compared with the inactive participants, the HR for CVD mortality was 0.60 in insufficiently active participants, 0.60 in weekend warriors, and 0.59 in regularly active participants. The HR for cancer mortality was 0.83 in insufficiently active participants, 0.82 in weekend warriors, and 0.79 in regularly active participants.

“The present study suggests that less frequent bouts of activity, which might be more easily fit into a busy lifestyle, offer considerable health benefits, even in the obese and those with major risk factors,” the authors concluded.


  1. O’Donovan G, Lee IM, Hamer M, Stamatakis E. Association of “weekend warrior” and other leisure time physical activity patterns with risks for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.8014