Review – BBC Horizon – The Truth About Exercise

I saw an article on HIT (High Intensity Training) intervals on the BBC Breakfast yesterday morning but didn’t realise it was for a Horizon show. HIT is pretty old news in the health and fitness industry but things crop up into the public consicousness when a new study is released which was the case here.

The last Horizon show I saw was on sports products and was basically a big marketing bash. A pretty easy target. It turns out that advertising is mostly lies. Wow! Who would have thought? Anyway, my flatmate convinced me to watch it on iplayer last night as he said that all my clients would be watching it and wondering why they are paying me money for hour long sessions. I rather begrudgingly agreed to watch it and then had to sit through an infuriating hour of television. Sometime this is something I masochistically enjoy but I could have done with the sleep yesterday!

There were some good points in the show and whilst I don’t doubt the validity of the studies performed in the show as I know for a fact that HIT works, I think that running a show informing people that 3 minutes of exercise a week is enough is sensationalist and frankly dangerous. It is not the answer for most people and here are a few reasons why:

  1.  We’re living in a country which is becoming more and more sedentary and stressed. Exercise gets us moving and is a big stress buster! Think of all those lovely endorphins that are released after exercise. 3 minutes on a stationary bike is not enough to counteract most of our lifestyles. I know being in a gym is not for everyone but if you have the time to waste an hour of your life watching a Horizon program on exercise, you have the time to exercise even a little! The reporter boasted of being able to exercise in his suit as he didn’t even sweat. This can not be a good thing!
  2. In order for HIT to be fully effective, you need to work at 85% or above of effort. From my experience, Joe Public do not want to push themselves this hard. For a start, most of the public will get injured if they try to do this without any prior conditioning! This was proved by the presenter pulling up with a hamstring injury in the first experiment in the program. Also, working this hard is not a pleasant experience. I know there are benefits but those in the most need of the benefits of exercise will more often than not, not work this hard. I don’t even work that hard all the time and I’m a trainer! In my experience putting someone into this unpleasant situation is a surefire way to put them off exercise. Exercise needs to be made fun, achievable and accessible in order to inspire those most in need to take it up. Another quick fix or gimmick of how get healthy is not what the public need thrown at them. We need a change in attitudes to living healthily.
  3. Nutrition. This is the all important key if you want to be healthy. By the end of the show all that really changed for the reporter was that his insulin sensitivity had improved. His V02 max remained constant so he was no better off in terms of cardiovascular fitness. This change in insulin sensitivity may well have been achieved by dietary changes over the four weeks that led him to avoid abusing his insulin system less.

In my opinion it takes more than 3 minutes a week to live a healthier life and get all the benefits of exercise and nutrition. Like lots of things in life, you get out of it what you put in. Living a healthy lifestyle is not rocket science but it does require discipline. In order to see the benefits, you need consistency. Eat natural unprocessed foods and be as active as possible, including exercising to a decent level 4 times a week. If you’re training for a specific goal, it obviously gets much more detailed but if you’re looking to feel better about life and your body start there. I’d also advise getting outside as much as possible. Yes, even in this weather! We’re wild beings deep down and not built to spend our lives caged up!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Amy Cooper says:

    Paul, thank you for this. When I’m working with people about behaviour change around food and lifestyle TIME is always something they say they don’t have. I ask people what they are doing which they enjoy, and they can often not tell me. Exercise is for the body and mind and doing it regularly, is a great way to feel like you are able to take control of your day and if you are lucky your life. Be interested to hear how you manage to get your clients to change their behaviours. Looking forward to more straight up myth busting about health and fitness. Cheers Amy

  2. Thanks Amy, I try to work with everyone individually in order to change behaviours. Some are ready for wholesale changes and that’s great. Other’s need to just add in a little bit of change and then go from there. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly as the saying goes. Time is always the excuse but if you want it, you’ll find out a way to make it work. Hey, the worst comes to the worst you could just do the 3 minutes a week! ; )

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