Heart Health

Harvard study: Even weekend warriors achieve heart benefits

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By , Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

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We're all supposed to exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. But if daily activity is a challenge, maybe you can squeeze a week's worth of exercise into one or two days per week. This "weekend warrior" approach is linked to the same heart-healthy benefits as daily exercise, according to a Harvard study published July 18, 2023, in JAMA. Researchers analyzed the health data and physical activity of almost 90,000 people (average age 62) who fit into one of three categories: they exercised throughout the week, jammed all exercise into one or two days a week, or didn't exercise at all. Participants wore fitness trackers for a week and were then followed for about six years. Compared with people who didn't exercise, weekend warriors had a 27% lower risk for heart attacks, a 38% lower risk for heart failure, a 22% lower risk for atrial fibrillation, and a 21% lower risk for stroke. The numbers were similar for people who exercised throughout the week. The study was observational and doesn't prove that the weekend warrior pattern is as good for the heart as daily exercise. But if you're pressed for time, the concentrated approach might help you reach your weekly exercise goals until you can get back to a daily routine. Just don't overdo it if you're not used to a lot of activity. Build up your minutes gradually.

Image: © Alistair Berg/Getty Images

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About the Author

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Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio
View all posts by Heidi Godman

About the Reviewer

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Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff is the Steven P. Simcox/Patrick A. Clifford/James H. Higby Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and editor in chief of the Harvard … See Full Bio
View all posts by Anthony L. Komaroff, MD


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