Weekend warriors vs mid-week riders: study finds both are equally effective

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or you prefer to split things up more across the week, similar health benefits are gained either way, a recent study suggests

Image shows a rider exercising outside.
(Image credit: Future)

A new study has found that leaving all your riding until the weekend can be equally effective for staying fit and healthy as fitting in three or more sessions during the week. 

US researchers have been tracking 350,978 adults over 10 years to determine whether the weekly recommended amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) has the same benefits for mortality risk when activity sessions are spread throughout the week compared to when they are concentrated in fewer days.

The findings of the study, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, suggest that adults who perform 150 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) per week may experience similar health benefits, regardless of whether the sessions are spread throughout the week or concentrated into a weekend.

Image shows a rider exercising outside.

(Image credit: Future)

The study showed that individuals who engage in active patterns of physical activity – whether weekend warrior (one to two sessions) or regularly active (three or more sessions) – experience lower all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates than inactive individuals. There were not significant differences, though, between the two active groups.

At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise is recommended each week, which is the equivalent of just two 1hr 15 minute bike rides at the weekend. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t better times of the week to be exercising for making optimal fitness gains. A recent study found that the ideal time of day to exercise differs between active men and women. Here researchers determined that early morning exercise could benefit physically active women who are aiming to reduce body fat and blood pressure, whereas men burn more body fat in the evenings. 

Fitting in sessions during the week could be beneficial as at least then you’re definitely getting them done. Other life plans could crop up at the weekend and then it’s too late to catch back up on the week you’ve missed. 

Turbo trainers and exercise bikes can certainly help with squeezing in a workout during the week if needed, and indoor training platforms such as Zwift can also make these indoor cycling sessions more interesting. 

Cycling apps such as Strava and Training Peaks can be useful for tracking how many sessions you have done a week or how much time you’ve spent riding, to ensure you’re keeping up with the recommended levels. 

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