Say No to Cheat Day: Study Shows Lazy Weekends Can Boost Body Fat

When the workweeks are so hectic and warm weather is still months away, we all know what weekends are for: sleeping in, binge-watching, and cheat days.

But a new study suggests that taking it “easy like Sunday morning” on the weekends may be worse for your weight than working at your desk all week as reported by HealthDay.

According to exercise scientists, even a 20-minute reduction in sedentary time on Saturdays and Sundays added up to a loss of more than 2 pounds and 1.6 per cent of body fat after a year. The same correlation was not observed with sedentary time during the weekdays.


“We know that, on average, people consume less or eat healthier diets on weekdays,” explained study author Clemens Drenowatz, an assistant professor of exercise science at University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.

For most of us, this seems to be the case. According to Drenowatz, we may be able to get by with less activity on weekdays because a healthy diet makes up for it .“On weekends, they’re eating more, which requires more activity or less sedentary behaviour to offset,” Drenowatz said. 

Of course, we’ve heard of the countless studies that link routine sedentary behavior like sitting at your desk day in and day out with everything from weight gain to diabetes and heart disease.

But the study puts more focus on the precious weekend.

The sedentary time of a group of 332 young adults between the ages of 20 and 35 was measured by using a device that tracked inactivity over a 10-day period. The participants also documented and reported their own sedentary behaviours separately for weekdays and the weekend. Additionally, the participants’ body weight and body fat measurements were taken every three months over a one-year period.

“From what we saw, the overall sedentary time wasn’t different on weekdays versus weekends,” Drenowatz said. “A lot of people had sedentary occupations, like office jobs, and they didn’t really make up for that on the weekends either. This suggests diet is the reason, though obviously more research needs to be done.”

During the week, things like walking to work can help, as can weeknight workouts in addition to light lunches (even if they’re consumed at your desk). On weekends, not only do we tend to eat less healthy, most of us also consume more alcohol on the as well, which leads to the inevitable greasy hangover food.

Despite the two whole days of freedom to take advantage of things like extra long gym sessions or fitness classes, the whole “weekend mentality” invites a lazier mindset that totally justifies being a couch potato (after all, we’ve worked hard all week).

As Drenowatz says, it’s important to distinguish between exercising and simply reducing sedentary time, which means less sitting. “I’m not telling people they need to go out and exercise – that’s a separate issue – but just to reduce their sedentary time. It may be just standing up and walking around a bit … can help,” Drenowatz suggested.

This doesn’t have to take up too much of that weekend you’ve waited five days for either. Drenowatz notes that a loss of 1.6 percent of body fat over one year can be achieved by simply moving 20 minutes more on the weekends, having a positive impact on the risks for developing heart disease.”A lot of people get caught up with body weight, but from a health perspective, body fat and where it’s located actually has a bigger impact on cardiovascular disease over the long term,” Drenowatz said.

The findings were recently presented at an American Heart Association meeting in Phoenix. It should be kept in mind that studies presented have not been peer-reviewed or published, so the results are considered preliminary (so you may want to get all the binge-watching in that you can for now).