One to 2 exercise sessions per week confer significant health benefits in men and women, even in obese people and those with medical risk factors.1

“It is very encouraging news that being physically active on just 1 or 2 occasions per week is associated with a lower risk of death, even among people who do some activity but don’t quite meet recommended exercise levels,” said senior author, Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, Associate Professor, Sydney Medical School, the University of Sydney in Australia.

“However, for optimal health benefits from physical activity it is always advisable to meet and exceed the physical activity recommendations.”

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Regular physical activity is correlated with lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality, with the World Health Organization recommending at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or at least 75 minutes of high-intensity activity per week.

Research has not yet elucidated the frequency and combination of total weekly quantity of activity that could optimize health benefits. People who exercise just 1 or 2 days per week are often called “weekend warriors.”

This study assessed data from pooled analysis of household-based surveillance studies. Data came from respondents (63591 individuals) to the Health Survey for England and Scottish Health Survey with prospective linkage to mortality records. Data were collected between 1994 and 2012 and analyzed in 2016. Of respondents, 45.9% were male, and the average age was 58.6 years.

In the subgroup defined as weekend warriors, 56% were male. About half participated in 1 bout of activity per week, and the other half participated in 2 bouts of activity per week. Most of the activity was participation in sports.

Though the bouts of activity occurred on only 1 or 2 days, “weekend warriors” spent an average of 300 minutes per week engaging in moderate- or high-intensity physical activity.

The all-cause mortality hazard ratio was 0.69 (95% CI: 0.65, 0.77) in insufficiently active people, 0.70 (95% CI: 0.60, 0.82) in “weekend warriors,” and 0.65 (95% CI: 0.58, 0.73) in regularly active people, who were active at least 3 days per week.

Cardiovascular disease mortality hazard ratio was 0.63 (0.55, 0.72) in insufficiently active people, 0.59 (0.48, 0.73) in weekend warriors, and 0.59 (0.48, 0.73) in the regularly active.

The cancer mortality hazard ratio was 0.86 (0.77, 0.96) in insufficiently active people, 0.82 (0.63, 1.06) in weekend warriors, and 0.79 (0.66, 0.94) in the regularly active.

In other words, compared to people who reported no physical activity, cancer mortality rate was 14% lower in the insufficiently active, 18% lower in weekend warriors, and 21% lower in the regularly active.

“Compared to inactive people, the results reveal that the insufficiently active, weekend warriors, and people with regular physical activity patterns had reduced risks of all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality,” expained Dr Stamatakis.

“This findings persisted after adjusting for potential confounders, prevalent chronic diseases, and excluding those who died in the first 2 years of the study.”


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 Jan 9. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.8014 [Epub ahead of print]