Fun Fact: Skipping Weekday Workouts May Not Be So Bad

Many a health magazine has been quoted over the years touting the importance of daily exercise. But, if a more recent study is anything to go by, skipping weekday workouts in favor of weekend sweat sessions might not be a bad thing.

According to Mayo Clinic, in an ideal world, adults would exercise for at least half an hour, every day of the week. And, included in that exercise should be both cardio and strength training. Here's the thing, though: Sometimes, life happens, and getting it all in – especially on already-busy weekdays – just isn't possible. Enter, the alternative: weekend warriors, who make up for lost time on (you guessed it) the weekend. However, even that has come under scrutiny by some experts, who argue that it could easily lead to over-exertion, injury, and, in more extreme cases, severe health issues. Case in point: In 2017, Healthline published an article on the risks of Rhabdomyolysis caused by intense bursts of cardio that the body may not be able to handle. Speaking to the outlet, sport medicine expert, Dr. Robert Flannery explained that overdoing it could have a devastating effect. "It will gum up the kidneys," he warned.

Even so, a 2023 study published in medical journal JAMA Network Open suggests that keeping workouts to the weekend might not be all that bad, after all ...

Even two days a week is good for heart health

First thing's first, a look at the JAMA Network Open study. Back in 2005 and 2006, researchers Kosuke Inoue, Yusuke Tsugawa and Elizabeth Rose Mayeda tasked a sample of just over 3100 participants with wearing step trackers over the space of a week. Of that sample, 632 were found to have walked fewer than 8,000 steps on any given day of the week, 532 walked 8,000 steps on one to two days, and 1937 took 8,000 or more steps for three to seven days. 10 years later, the researchers accessed death records of the people in each group of the sample, and analyzed whose passing was linked to cardiovascular disease. 

Their findings? While those who had walked for three or more days per week were significantly healthier than everyone else studied, the one to two day group were 14.9% less likely to die as a result of cardiovascular issues than those who did no walking at all. In other words, the findings suggest that while working out daily would certainly be ideal, opting to move more on the weekends still has some health benefits.

With that in mind, and in line with Mayo Clinic's suggestion that an overall 150 minutes of moderate cardio per week, getting in 16,000 steps over the weekend could make exercise a walk in the park – literally! 

... but it also depends on your strength goals

Walking or hiking over the weekend may boost heart health significantly (especially when the alternative is nothing at all), but that's not to say it'll have quite the same effects when it comes to toning or building muscle.

According to personal trainer Natasha Ram, who spoke to The Sun, strength training requires consistency. "While weekend workouts are a great way to maintain your fitness in the short term, it is unlikely that you will make substantial strength gains by exercising twice a week," she explained. Research published in 2019 by Sports Medicine confirms this, with one paper emphasizing that sticking to a regiment is essential for muscle development.On top of that, there's also a higher chance of injury as a result of over-exertion. As another trainer speaking to The Sun, Maria Eleftheriou pointed out, "You may then be at more risk of straining muscles ... and you may find you fatigue quicker." That said, in the event that fitting in weekday workouts just isn't viable, there is a workaround. According to Eleftheriou, switching the workouts up to focus on different muscles on Saturday versus Sunday is a good option. Eleftheriou also mentioned taking barre classes – and given that the cardio-fueled, ballet- and pilates- and yoga-based exercise is known as a powerful full-body workout, it's definitely a good option for weekend workout aficionados.

At the end of the day, exercise — even in small amounts — has endless benefits for health, both physical and mental. Fit it in where possible, and go easy if need be — but keep moving.