Weekend warriors’ exercise is beneficial for their heart.

Weekend warriors' exercise is beneficial for their heart.

The Benefits of Exercise: It’s All About the Volume


Exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy heart and overall cardiovascular health. A new study reveals that regardless of the frequency of exercise, the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week provides significant heart benefits. This finding challenges the common belief that daily exercise is superior to condensed activity performed over the weekend. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, emphasizes the importance of focusing on the volume of activity, rather than the specific pattern, for cardiovascular health.

Lead researcher Dr. Shaan Khurshid, a research fellow in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, explains, “Efforts to increase physical activity, whether they’re spread out evenly or concentrated within a day or two each week, result in similar protective effects on several cardiovascular outcomes and overall cardiovascular health.” In other words, the total volume of activity is what matters most. This information should be encouraging for those who are only able to exercise once or twice a week, as they can still achieve significant benefits.

The study, which involved nearly 90,000 British adults, revealed that approximately half of active individuals accumulated most of their exercise in one to two days, earning them the title of “weekend warriors”. This highlights the flexibility with which physical activity can be accumulated to achieve health benefits.

Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director of population and public health sciences at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, acknowledges the importance of any exercise, stating, “Every minute counts.” He emphasizes that even if the established guideline of 150 minutes per week cannot be reached, health benefits can still be seen at lower activity levels.

“The medical and public health community has focused on promoting 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a week for the last couple of decades,” says Katzmarzyk. However, more recent studies show that lower activity levels still provide health benefits. Katzmarzyk encourages doctors to work with their patients to develop physical activity goals that are appropriate for their age and health, even if they cannot reach the 150-minute mark.

The study collected data from participants who wore wristband exercise monitors for a week. The researchers analyzed three groups: those who regularly exercised and achieved 150 minutes of activity per week, those who condensed their activity into one or two days, and inactive individuals. The findings showed comparable reductions in major cardiovascular outcomes for both the regular exercisers and the weekend warriors, demonstrating that both activity patterns were associated with similar protective effects.

Over a period of approximately six years, the risk of heart attack was reduced by 27% for weekend warriors and about 35% for those who spread their activity hours out more evenly. Both groups saw a roughly 20% drop in the risk of atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heartbeat, and a 27% reduction in the risk of heart failure. In contrast, inactive individuals did not experience these benefits.

Exercise is undeniably beneficial for cardiovascular health, regardless of the pattern or frequency. While the recommended guideline of 150 minutes per week is a valuable target, lower activity levels still provide notable health advantages. The study emphasizes the importance of adopting a flexible approach to physical activity and setting realistic goals based on individual circumstances. Every minute of exercise counts towards a healthier heart and a healthier life.


  • Shaan Khurshid, MD, MPH, research fellow in medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • Peter Katzmarzyk, PhD, associate executive director, Population and Public Health Sciences, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA
  • Journal of the American Medical Association, July 18, 2023

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