Are you a not-so-active guy who transforms into a super-jock on your mountain bike, at the squash court or on the touch-football field come the weekend? Don’t sweat this split fitness personality. Being a so-called ‘weekend warrior”someone who exercises only sporadically’is better than living a totally inactive life. ‘Some exercise is better than none,’ says Steven Bray, an associate professor of health and exercise psychology at McMaster University. A Harvard University study that looked at 8,421 men over nine years found those with no health problems who exercised once or twice a week had a 59 percent lower risk of death in that period than sedentary men.
And whether or not weekly workouts impact your weight, they’re still good for your mind. A 2009 report from the University of Florida reviewed studies on exercise and body image. It concluded that working out, even if it doesn’t lead to weight loss, improved body image‘the more exercise, the better people felt.
If you currently get all your sports from TV, why not switch it up a bit and try joining a weekly shinny game or playing tennis with a pal? (Of course, ‘if you haven’t been active lately, you should check with your doctor before starting to exercise.)
But if you’re already in weekend warrior mode, Bray says ‘there’s a ‘dose response’ to exercise: You gain more when you do more.’ Upping your activity level is worth it. ‘You can add five to 10 years to your life by exercising regularly,’ explains Dr. James Stone, a cardiologist and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Calgary.
Here’s what else a weekend warrior should know:
Many men love playing hockey, but a study ‘in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that, after a game, all 133 study participants were above their target heart rate for exercising and 76 percent were over their maximum heart rate, putting some of them ‘at increased cardiac risk.
Men should know their cardiac risk level; those at high risk should be evaluated by their doctor, know their heart rate target zone and possibly wear a monitor at games. Stone says that warming up (‘you should be sweating before you step on the ice’) and taking frequent breaks is best for the heart‘the shift changes in hockey make it somewhat less dangerous for at-risk men than a high-intensity game like squash. Rather than avoid these games, guys should get fitter by adding a 20-minute run or jump-rope session three times a week, with adequate warm-up and cool-down, Stone adds.
An ongoing U.S. survey found that, over two years, 68 percent of sports-related injuries happened to men (basketball was riskiest). Bray says out-of-shape guys are at highest risk. To prevent sprains, cuts, bruises and worse, he advises warming up before every game and, ideally, exercising more during the week to improve agility and strength.
This article was originally titled "It’s okay if he’s a weekend warrior" in the September 2010 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.