A couple of days ago I watched an episode of Horizon on the BBC iPlayer called The Truth About Exercise. If you can’t use BBC iPlayer, you can read about the show here. It was a pretty interesting show. The take-home messages were:
- As far as weight loss is concerned, unless you are running marathons every day, exercise will probably not counter a bad diet. If you want to lose weight, it’s all about the diet. The exercise is a bonus. For lots of people, as they increase their exercise they also eat more, probably because they think they can afford to. The classic, “It’s OK to have this because I’ve been to the gym today!”, line springs to mind.
- For insulin sensitivity, High Intensity Training (HIT) (or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)) training rules. The minimum you need to do to get significant benefits is 3×20 second bursts of all out effort, 3 times a week. That’s 3 minutes of hard exercise a week! So the workout the guy followed was, 20 seconds max effort on an exercise bike, followed by 2 minutes of slow peddling, then repeat that 2 more times. This workout was done 3 times a week. Compared to most HIT/HIIT/Tabata workouts, this is very easy, but if you are not used to interval training, this is actually a lot harder than it sounds. Max effort really does mean you peddle like your life depends on it!
- For aerobic fitness (VO2 max), the effect is less predictable because your results depend very much on your genetics. About 15% of people get sensational improvements in VO2 max. About 20% of people get no benefit. The rest scatter somewhere between the two groups. They have a genetic test to predict your reaction. It’s interesting/scary to know that your chances of improving your VO2 max, regardless of the exercise program used, is fixed from the point you are conceived. Assuming you are not one of the poor responders, this 3 minute a week HIT workout can give you most of the health benefits you expect to get from exercise.
If you’ve read my other blog posts on exercise you’ll know I’m a fan of HIIT/Tabata style workouts, so it’s nice to hear my efforts are not totally wasted.
Fridays are becoming the 100 rep challenge day at the gym. The idea is to do something different each week, but today we did the same as last week and I managed to improve my time by about 15 seconds. Today’s challenge was to do the following 5 exercises for 20 reps each as fast as you can:
- Sprawls (Deadmen) : From standing, drop to the ground body flat arms out. From there, hands back to a pushup position and spring back to your feet and stand up. That’s one rep. Slightly different to the type of Sprawl you see demonstrated on Youtube.
- Thrusters (30kg bar) : Hold bar in front of your shoulders, squat down and once you rise up push the bar overhead. That’s one rep.
- Bunny-Hops over a bench/step: Hold on to bench with your hands and have both legs on one side of the bench. Jump the feet over the bench to the opposite side and back. That’s *two* reps. One rep per jump. This feels like a rest compared to the other exercises.
- Clean and press (30kg bar)
It sounds so trivial and a couple of the lads were all cocky before we started. Nobody was acting cocky when we finished.
Last week the best time was about 3:30. This week it was 3:20, but in our group it was about 4:20. I came in about 5:20 this week. It’s bloody hard throwing a body as heavy as mine around. Of the 10 people in my group, 3 of us had already done our workouts, so I guess we had an excuse for being a bit slower. It would be nice to try it fresh, but at the same time I would rather get my regular workout done so I don’t get tempted to forget it.
In addition to being knackering, it’s a nice bonding exercise. There was a mix of members and staff both doing the challenge and supporting. It kinda makes you feel like a team. It’s also nice that I was about double the age of most of the people and by far the fattest, but I didn’t come last. At my age you have to take these little victories where you can.
If anyone else fancies giving it a go I would love to know your times. It’ll give me something to aim for.