The term “weekend warrior” has sometimes held a negative connotation – often used to describe those who only exercise on weekends, but remain chained to their desks the rest of the week.
Historically, researchers have thought exercising only on weekends could increase the risk of pain, strains and even worse; but a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed just the opposite. In fact, the study uncovered astonishing longevity benefits among those who exercise only twice per week compared to those who skipped exercise altogether. Additionally, the study found that deaths from heart disease and cancer were lower among weekend warriors.
So, play golf or tennis on Saturdays? Hit this gym just on Sundays? Enjoy gardening, remodeling or other physical activity each weekend? Fight on, you weekend warriors! (But please read on.)
Experts still agree the most effective way to reach weekly physical activity quota and protect against injury is to resist temptation to cram an entire week’s worth of exercise into just two days.
If you’re a weekend warrior – here are seven strategies to keep you healthy 52 weeks a year:
- EAT A HEALTHY DIET. Exercise requires energy and the best way to fuel your body is with a healthy diet including plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Eating this way not only supplies your body with nutrients, it may also help you lose unwanted pounds. And, the less weight you’re carrying – the less pressure on your joints.
- STAY HYDRATED. During exercise, you lose more water than your brain tells you. Too little water, and your body takes a hit. Most concerning is that dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion – and that can become serious. There’s more to hydration than water alone. Water-rich fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, grapes, berries and cucumbers can help you reach your daily needs.
- WARM UP AND COOL DOWN. Stretching before and after a workout helps prevent overuse and injuries. Tight muscles and tendons are much more likely to strain – or even snap – if they’re not warm. Cooling down with gentle, post-workout stretches helps relax worked muscles while your heart rate recovers.
- WEAR PROPER FOOTWEAR. Whatever your weekend love, wear the appropriate shoes. Just as running shoes require extra cushioning, court sports like basketball, racquetball or tennis demand shoes with side-to-side ankle stabilization.
- DO SUPPLEMENTAL ACTIVITIES. The key to weekend warrior success is keeping muscles conditioned throughout the week, even if it doesn’t include the standard 30-minute workout. Just 10-15 minutes of stretching or strengthening during the week will help prime your body for the weekend. For example: Have a tennis match next Saturday? Do planks on weekdays to condition your shoulder and core muscles.
- MIX IT UP. Doing the same activities every time you exercise can create the risk of developing an overuse injury. Maximize workouts by focusing on different muscles each day, and giving other muscle groups a break.
- KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Listen to your body. If your workout is causing pain, dial it down. Don’t get into the “No pain, no gain” mentality. If you work out too hard, or too soon, you do risk pulled muscles, cramps, serious sports injuries – and even heart attack.
Finally, keep your doctor apprised of your weekend warrior activities. He or she will advise you if you’re just starting out, and how to assist if you do injure yourself along the way.