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News Article

Income, physical activity and ‘weekend warriors’

High earners cram all their exercise into weekends and days off

People on higher salaries tend to exercise during the weekend and on their days off, living sedentary lifestyles in the week, a U.S. study has concluded. The research published in the October 2017 issue of the journal Preventive Medicine finds that U.S. adults with higher incomes are more likely to reach recommended activity guidelines, but that they are sedentary in the week and rely on free time to exercise.

American Cancer Society researchers compared the income of 5,206 adults who had their physical activity tracked using accelerometers over one week. Previous research, which has linked affluence with a likelihood of higher levels of exercise, has mainly relied on individuals to report their own exercise habits.

This latest study found that compared to those making less than US$20,000 (€16,781, £15,326) per year, people with an annual income of US$75,000 (€62,927, £57,472) or more, on average, engaged in 4.6 more minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise every day.

They were also 1.6 times more likely to carry out 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of strenuous activity across two days, and were 1.9 times more likely to meet the guidelines during a seven-day period.

However, high earning individuals engaged in 9.3 fewer minutes of light intensity activity each day and spent 11.8 more minutes sedentary.

The findings show that those on higher salaries are more likely to be “weekend warriors”, getting most of their activity on only a few days a week and spending lots of time in the week being inactive, such as sitting at a desk for long periods.

“Our findings pertaining to income and the ‘weekend warrior’ effect underscore the importance of tailoring the physical activity message to reflect the constraints of both low and high income individuals,” said lead author Dr Kerem Shuval.

“To meet guidelines one can engage in 150 minutes of weekly moderate intensity activity over a two or three-day period rather than seven days, for example. This can be achieved over a long weekend, a message we may want to convey to those pressed for time. It is important to remember, however, that we should increase the duration and intensity of activity gradually to avoid injury.”

While higher income adults do get more exercise, the greater periods of sedentary time in the week can still be harmful. A number of studies have suggested that regardless of amount of exercise taken, greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity are linked to an increased risk of death.

In a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Diaz et al., 2017), it was found among American adults that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behaviour were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity. Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time.

In a study of self-reported physical activity in Finland by Kari et al. (2015), higher income was associated with higher self-reported physical activity for both genders. In Japan, Matsushita et al. (2015) found that higher income men had lower work-related physical activity than the lowest income groups, but significantly greater recreational and total physical activity. A Chinese study (Attard et al., 2015) reports that in highly urban areas there is a positive relationship between income and physical activity. Chen et al. (2015) found that adults with higher economic status were more likely to exercise, more active during commuting and had longer sedentary time. In Malaysia, Cheah (2011) found lower participation in physical activity in lower income adults living in rural areas.


Kerem Shuval,  QingLi, Kelley Pettee Gabriel and Rusty Tchernis, 2017. Income, physical activity, sedentary behavior, and the ‘weekend warrior’ among U.S. adults. Preventive Medicine, 103: 91-97.

KM Diaz, VJ Howard, B Hutto, N Colabianchi, JE Vena, MM Safford, SN Blair and SP Hooker, 2017.  Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A National Cohort Study. Annals of Internal Medicine, DOI: 10.7326/M17-0212

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 12 September 2017
  • Subject(s)
  • General Leisure and Recreation