You know it’s best to exercise most days of the week — so if weekends are the only time you have to work out, should you bother? Apparently yes, at least for those with few risk factors of heart disease (high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.).”Weekend warrior” is the somewhat pejorative appellation applied to those who try to make up for a week of inactivity with longer, vigorous bouts of exercise on the weekends. While moderation — i.e., spreading physical activity out over the week instead of cramming high-intensity sports action into just one day — is certainly a wiser strategy for avoiding potentially sidelining injuries, new research suggests some weekend warriors may still reap benefits.

According to data from the ongoing Harvard Alumni Health Study, among the 8,421 men (average age 66 years old) monitored for levels and frequency of physical activity, as well as cardiovascular risk factors, 7% were classified as weekend warriors (defined by burning roughly 1,000 calories in just 1-2 bouts of exertion weekly). While the high risk group (e.g., higher BMI, smokers, etc.) died at the same rate as sedentary men, relatively healthy weekend warriors enjoyed a 36% lower mortality risk compared to their inactive peers.These results represent a “better than nothing” advantage — not permission to exercise less: Those men who enjoyed the lowest mortality rates of all were those who burned 2,000 calories a week in regular, ongoing exercise.

Frequent workouts not only help you live longer — but healthier, too. For example,preliminary research found that men with the highest levels of physical activity enjoyed a 50% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s. Vigorous aerobic activity naturally boosts human growth hormone, elevates your mood and is among the best bulwarks against obesity. Mix it up by trying new activities —  like surfing,volleyball, soccer, biking, dancing or yoga.
Published May 1, 2011