People who only exercise during the weekend benefit in the same way when it comes to heart health as those who work out on a more regular basis, researchers have said.

A large-scale study has found that these ‘weekend warriors’ significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease even if their exercise regimes are crammed into Saturdays and Sundays.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital found that intensive exercise twice a week cuts the risk of heart attack by 27%. For those who exercise regularly, this figure is 35%.

Exercising in this way also helps to prevent against heart failure, stroke and irregular heartbeat.

Dr Patrick Ellinor, of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, said: “Our findings suggest that interventions to increase physical activity, even when concentrated within a day or two each week, may improve cardiovascular outcomes.”

The team said the findings are useful for people who may struggle to find time to exercise due to family and work commitments during the working week.

Health experts recommends that adults do either 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or 75 minutes of intensive exercise a week.

The Massachusetts research team examined data from almost 90,000 people in the UK Biobank, in which participants wore accelerometer wrist devices for a week. The study participants were tracked for more than six years, on average.

Their key findings included:

  • Weekend warriors and those who exercise regularly cut their risk of stroke by 21% and 17% respectively;
  • These groups also reduced their risk of an irregular heartbeat by 22% and 19% respectively.

This ‘warrior weekend’ pattern applied to more than half of the participants, demonstrating how common the practice is.

The researchers also found that the number musculo-skeletal injuries were similar across both groups of active people, dispelling the idea that bursts of energy seen in ‘weekend warriors’ may increase the risk of these type of injuries.

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