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The “weekend warrior” – what about the cardiovascular health benefits?

Comment by Mark Abela, Sports Cardiology and Exercise Section

Preventive Cardiology
Rehabilitation and Sports Cardiology

Good news for those individuals who have opted to exercise at the weekend. Regular physical activity spread evenly throughout the week may not be for all of us. The ‘weekend warrior’ is the new kid around the block, encompassing those individuals who prefer engaging in moderate to high intensity physical activity sessions during the weekend.

The World Health Organisation prefers to focus on intensity and duration of exercise regimes, failing to address frequency. The overall cardiovascular benefit in the so called ‘weekend warriors’ has been somewhat of a mystery. Is this comparable to those who engage in regular physical activity? The authors of this systematic meta-analysis (1) have attempted to address this question by using a meta-analysis of all published observational studies.

Four studies satisfied inclusion criteria, with the age of participants ranging between 41 and 66 years (weighted mean age 45 years). The mean sample size included 106,607 (range 3,438 – 350,978) subjects. There was a reasonable follow up duration of 10.1 years (6.5-10.4 years).

Meta-regression analysis showed that regular active physical activity and weekend warriors had similar risk reductions for cardiovascular disease mortality and all-cause mortality. I would however interpret these results with caution. All 4 studies were at moderate (n=2) or at serious risk (n=2) of bias. Physical activity was self-reported in 3 of these studies. The definition of ‘weekend warrior’ was not consistent in all studies. The sample sizes were small, the smallest being 3,438 and the largest including 350,978 individuals. One study only included male participants. These limitations have to be taken into account when assessing conclusions.

This has been an admirable attempt at answering a question on several people’s minds. The jury is still not out however. Studies using objective measures of physical activity and a universal definition of the ‘weekend warrior’ may help answer this important question.


Mark Abela commented on this article:

  1. ‘Weekend warrior’ and regularly active physical activity patterns confer similar cardiovascular and mortality benefits: a systematic meta-analysis, Setor K Kunutsor et al., European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 31 October 2022

Notes to editor

Note: The content of this article reflects the personal opinion of the author/s and is not necessarily the official position of the European Society of Cardiology.