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Weekend warriors can lose as much weight as daily exercisers

Feeling like there’s never enough time to exercise? You’re not alone. Between work, family, and everything else, fitting in regular workouts can be tough. 

But what if there’s a secret weapon? Some people go all-out on the weekends, cramming their exercise into one or two intense sessions. Is it possible that this “weekend warrior” approach could be as effective as daily workouts for weight loss? 

A new study from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences investigates this surprising idea, challenging traditional exercise advice and offering hope for busy individuals.

Widespread issue of obesity 

The study draws attention to the widespread problem of obesity, impacting a staggering 650 million adults globally. This excess weight brings about significant health challenges like diabetes and heart problems, various cancers, and even osteoarthritis. 

Moreover, the location of the excess weight matters. People with belly fat (central obesity) have a higher risk of diabetes and heart trouble compared to those with fat on their hips and thighs.

Exercise is undoubtedly a powerful tool in managing weight and overall health. It burns calories, boosts metabolism, and promotes muscle growth, which in turn helps burn more calories even at rest. 

To delve deeper into the impact of exercise frequency, the researchers carried out this interesting study.

Focus of the study

The researchers looked at how different exercise patterns affect belly fat and overall fat in 9,629 adults aged 20-59 in the USA. They analyzed data from a big national survey called NHANES from 2011 to 2018.

The experts focused on people who did not have any limitations on exercise. The participants answered questions about how much light, moderate, and hard exercise they did each week for fun, at work, or while traveling.

The researchers then grouped the people into 3 categories based on their total exercise minutes:

  • Not active at all (less than 150 minutes per week)
  • Weekend warriors (at least 150 minutes in 1 or 2 sessions)
  • Regularly active (at least 150 minutes in more than 2 sessions)

Belly fat and overall fat were measured using specialized scans, along with traditional indicators like weight and waist circumference. 

Surprising results

The study shows that how you fit exercise into your week might not be as important as you think, especially when it comes to fighting weight gain. Whether you cram your workouts into the weekend (“weekend warrior”) or spread them out throughout the week (“regularly active”), you’ll likely see benefits like less belly fat, smaller waist size, and lower overall weight.

This is big news because it means more people can find an exercise routine that fits their life. You can forget the strict “every day” rule – any movement is better than none. 

“The weekend warrior pattern is worth promoting in individuals who cannot meet the recommended frequency in current guidelines,” explained study co-author Lihua Zhang.

Fat reduction

The study shows promise in fighting abdominal adiposity through both weekend warrior and regular exercise. 

The data tells a great story: people in both groups saw big improvements in all measures of belly fat. The measures include hidden fat around organs, fat under the skin, and total belly fat. 

Waistline and BMI

The experts dug deeper, looking beyond abdominal adiposity and found good news for both “weekend warriors” and regular exercisers. Their waistlines got smaller and their Body Mass Index (BMI) went down compared to those who didn’t exercise at all.

Waist size is a simple way to measure belly fat, which is linked to health problems. Smaller waist size and lower BMI reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and other issues linked to being overweight.

Key takeaways 

For many, the structured demands of the work week create a yearning for unstructured time. A flexible approach allows you to embrace physical activity as a fun escape on weekends, not just a chore.

Staying active, even when your schedule changes, can boost your confidence. Feeling good about your progress helps you keep going, instead of getting discouraged and giving up completely.

Exercise can also naturally relieve stress by releasing feel-good hormones and calming your body down. When you feel tense, taking a quick walk or a relaxing swim can help you feel better and take charge of your mood.

Eventually, moving your body will make you happier. Maybe it’s enjoying the sun on a bike ride, having fun with others in a fitness class, or just feeling good about being active – whatever it is, exercise can really lift your spirits.

WHO recommendations

The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend that adults aiming to mitigate obesity risks should engage in at least:

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (PA) like brisk walking, cycling, or swimming per week. This translates to roughly 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity PA like running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or sports games. This equates to 15 minutes three times a week.
  • A combination of both moderate and vigorous activity to suit your preferences and fitness level.

Remember, every body is different, so find what works best for you and celebrate the joy of movement. Whether you’re a busy parent or a professional with long hours, you can still see major health benefits. 

The study is published in the journal Obesity.

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