Those who are weekend warriors, people who tend to participate in a physically strenuous activity only on weekends or part time, have some distinct advantages.
One of the most appealing involves being able to achieve the recommended amount of weekly exercise—150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—with just one or two sessions. This makes it easier to fit the suggested amount of physical activity into an already-packed work or family schedule without having to figure out when to handle other important obligations.
Though some health experts suggest that this type of workout schedule isn’t as effective at improving health and wellness as exercising consistently over the course of several days per week, new research is showing otherwise.
Exercise patterns, health, and injury
For instance, in a 2017 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed survey data from nearly 63,600 adults. After studying their answers and comparing them to recorded deaths, researchers discovered that weekend warriors lowered their mortality risk from all causes in much the same way as regular exercisers. Therefore, it was concluded that one or two exercise sessions per week appears to be enough to reduce mortality risk “regardless of adherence to prevailing physical activity guidelines.”
Though this is good news for those wishing to achieve higher levels of health and wellness by engaging in physical activity on a somewhat sporadic basis, there is still some concern about the injuries weekend warriors tend to sustain due to this type of exercise schedule. Medscape reports that five of the most common ailments are Achilles tendon ruptures, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, tennis elbow, and shin splints.
How can you help patients (and maybe even yourself) avoid some of these injuries if they’re only physically active one or two days a week? Here are a few recommendations to consider.
Challenge muscles throughout the week
Sports-health.com suggests that finding ways to challenge the muscles used in weekend sports activities throughout the rest of the week can help lower injury risk. The goal is to make them strong enough to withstand what can be grueling weekend activity sessions.
For example, if the weekend exercise involves playing tennis, then performing squats one or two times during the days prior will help strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings, two muscle groups heavily used in this particular sport.
It doesn’t have to be by way of a dedicated exercise session either. Simply do these movements while talking on the phone or watching television at night. Sports-health.com says that this can also help reduce muscle soreness.
Stretch for reduced injury risk
Stretching is another action that can potentially help lower the risk of injuries for weekend warriors. According to research published in the journal Sports Medicine, it works by improving muscle-tendon compliance when performing activities that have high-intensity physical demands.
This study goes on to say that, for activities that are lower in intensity, such as cycling or swimming, the evidence supporting stretching for injury prevention has not been quite as clear.
Yet another study published in Sports Medicine shares that this lack of clarity may revolve around the sheer number of different techniques used in stretching and the lack of a consistent definition for this pre- and post-exercise event. Regardless, it also found that, if done correctly, stretching appears most beneficial when it occurs within 15 minutes of the physical activity commencing.
Engage in a proper warm-up
Duke Health further recommends that weekend warriors do a warm-up prior to engaging in the sporadic physical activity, both to increase flexibility and improve blood flow to the muscles about to be used as this can help reduce injury risk. What type of warm-up is best?
ACE (American Council on Exercise) states that a proper warm-up should include between two and four exercises directed at the core, followed by two to four bodyweight exercises. Some of the exercises recommended by ACE include hip bridges, planks, side lunges, push-ups, and squats.
Eat the right foods for injury prevention
Another way to help prevent injuries is through feeding the body proper nutrition so it has what it needs to sustain through physical activity sessions. Research published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal suggests that eating a diet that contains primarily whole foods (versus supplemental pills and powders) is perhaps the best way to achieve this goal.
This means adding high-quality proteins like chicken breast, eggs, tuna, and salmon to the diet, or carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Obtaining the necessary amount of fat via whole foods means adding avocados, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil, and minimum fiber requirements can be met with whole foods such as prunes, oatmeal, brown rice, beans, and legumes.
Being a weekend warrior offers lots of benefits and, though injuries can sometimes result from a sporadic workout schedule, following these guidelines can help reduce that risk.