A Hard Workout On The Weekend Can Make Up For A Lazy Week

A hard workout on the weekend can make up for a lazy week

Study finds weekend warriors who work out at high intensity can lose as much belly fat as committed everyday gym-goers.

AS THE END of the work-week looms, many of us are probably looking down at our stomachs, or rubbing our jowls (I had a big lunch today) and feeling a little guilty that we haven’t exercised as much as we’d hoped back on Monday morning.

Let’s face it, some weeks, like a Jack Russell in a park, just get away from you. Between work deadlines, childcare commitments, drinks with mates or just general laziness, some weeks it can be difficult to squeeze in a session at the gym or a run around the park.

At this point, the inclination to write the week off as a failure, and idly promise that you’ll redouble your efforts next week, is strong. But before you give in to that impulse, hear this: if you work out extra hard on the weekend you can make up for your weekday indolence, according to a new study by researchers in China. In fact, your body doesn’t really care about the pattern or frequency at which you exercise, just as long as you get it done.

“The weekend warrior pattern is worth promoting in individuals who cannot meet the recommended frequency [150 minutes per week] in current guidelines,” says study author Lihua Zhang, a health care scientist at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing. “Our results indicated that there was no difference between the weekend warrior pattern and regularly active pattern in abdominal and general adiposity (fat).”

Before you shelve weekday workouts completely, there is an important caveat: you will probably need to up both the intensity and duration of your weekend sessions to achieve similar results to what you would accomplish by exercising each day of the week. In the study, weekend warriors spent 147.6 minutes in each exercise session over the two-day period. A 2.5 hour session is the kind you might knockout on a long run in the lead-up to a marathon or a triathlon. It’s also close to what you might rack up in weekend footy, indicating that the weekend warriors in the study were probably already quite fit. It’s certainly a long time to spend in the gym, though you could do two-a-days.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, analysed body fat on more than 9,600 people ages 20 to 59, using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA scan, to measure overall levels of fat and belly fat, the most dangerous type kind to your overall health.

Both the 772 weekend warriors and the 3,277 regular exercisers in the study had lower levels of belly fat, lower waist circumference, lower whole-body fat mass and lower BMI compared to the 5,580 people who didn’t work out regularly.

Interestingly, weekend warriors also achieved impressive results in reducing belly fat compared to regular weekday exercisers. Of course, for many people, exercise is not only about stacking on muscle or losing weight. It’s an activity that undergirds their mental health, helping reduce anxiety and upping productivity. To go a whole five days without working out would be a tough ask. But for others, who may be too busy during the week to get to the gym, challenging weekend workouts could offer a way of ticking off your health and fitness goals.

So, where are you at this week? If you haven’t hit the gym or pounded the pavement as much as you hoped, just know you can turn it all around this weekend. But also remember that in the catch cry of many a weekend warrior, you will probably need to go hard or go home to get results.


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By Ben Jhoty

Ben Jhoty, Men’s Health’s Head of Content, attempts to honour the brand’s health-conscious, aspirational ethos on weekdays while living marginally larger on weekends. A new father, when he’s not rocking an infant to sleep, he tries to get to the gym, shoot hoops and binge on streaming shows.

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