We’re all officially obsessed with fitness. Gym membership is at an all-time high and social media is chock-a-block with photos of weight loss transformations and yoga poses.
But with so much choice, how can you know what exercise is right for you?
That’s the question Anna Richardson and Amar Latif set out to answer in new Channel 4 show, ‘How To Get Fit Fast’.
Here are seven learnings from the show.
1. HIIT Workouts Are Ideal For Beginners
HIIT (or high intensity interval training) workouts have risen in popularity over the past few years, spearheaded by the likes of Joe Wicks (aka The Body Coach).
The idea is that you take an exercise and push it to the max for 45 seconds, before taking a rest and repeating the process again.
Scientists believe you can burn more calories doing HIIT than cycling or running and a recent study of athletes found they burned up to 13 calories per minute doing HIIT, compared to 9 calories doing running.
Anna Richardson went to test out the science of the fitness trend and discovered that a group of people doing HIIT workouts twice a week had improved their fitness levels by 10%.
Those that start at a lower level tend to improve more too, meaning it’s ideal for beginners.
According to the show, you can do 19 minutes of HIIT to burn off a chocolate bar, 11-and-a-half minutes for a packet of crisps and 28-and-a-half minutes for a chicken salad sandwich.
Richardson’s conclusion was that the trend is perfect for those aged over 50, people in 9-5 jobs, busy mums and those who are new to exercise.
2. You Burn More Calories With A Workout Buddy
Research has shown you’re more likely to succeed at the gym with a workout buddy. In fact, you burn 21% more calories and stick with a workout for 16% longer if you have a pal there. You’re also more likely to turn up, too.
There’s also a lot of research to suggest that team activities – like netball, rugby and football – help motivate us more.
“It’s been statistically proven that if you exercise in a team, you’re more inclined to keep playing the sport because you don’t want to let others down,” Jo Adams, England Netball CEO told Anna Richardson.
“So you’ll get fitter, you’ll lose weight and you’ll stick at it for longer.”
If you’re loved up, it’s also worth hitting the gym with your other half as couples who exercise separately have a 43% drop-out rate. Couples who exercise together, on the other hand, have a 6% drop-out rate.
3. Running Doesn’t Actually Mess Up Your Joints
When we run, our whole body is off the floor and a vast array of muscles are being worked.
There have been various warnings from health experts that running could damage the knees and hips, however according to Dr Brian Hanley, it’s a myth.
Dr Hanley, who specialises in sports science, told Amar Latif that the body is designed to take a lot of pressure. In fact, our joints can take up to five times our body weight.
“What bones need, especially, is compression – forces where you’re getting squashed. That’s what keeps them healthy,” said Dr Hanley.
Latif explained that a friend of his who’s in his sixties didn’t want to go running because he believed it would wear out his hip joints and put pressure on his knees. But it’s actually not the case.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” said Dr Hanley before adding that running injuries are down to humans doing too much, too soon.
Our muscles need time to recover between runs, he explained, but when we do too much, we end up damaging them.
4. You Can Do Exercise Without Realising
NEAT, or non exercise activity thermogenesis, refers to tasks you do throughout the day that burn calories without you realising. Here are the top 10:
:: Watching TV – burns 12 calories every 15 minutes
:: Ironing – burns 25 calories for 15 minutes work
:: Hoovering – typically burns around 50 calories
:: Sex – typically burns 54 calories in 15 minutes
:: Shopping – burns around 58 calories per session
:: Short walk – burns roughly 62 calories
:: Playing with kids – burns 74 calories
:: Washing the car – burns 84 calories in 15 minutes
:: Dancing around – typically burns 102 calories
:: Taking the stairs – burns 120 calories
5. Getting A Six-Pack Is Seriously Hard Work
Lift weights, eat protein, get a six pack. That’s what most of us believe goes into getting rock hard abs.
But it’s actually far from easy.
In the show, Latif meets up with bodybuilder Jack, who eats between 4,000 and 5,000 calories per day – that’s double the NHS standard guidelines.
Jack also exercises twice per day, with sessions typically consisting of two hours of weight training.
This process is called bulking. It’s often followed by shredding, where you lose the ‘bulk’ you’ve gained by restricting calories and exercising.
This is the part where you reduce your body fat percentage by refining your diet and cutting out things like junk food and alcohol completely.
If you’re serious about getting a six-pack, it could take up to a year of really hard work and dedication to achieve.
6. Alcohol Turns Your Body’s Ability To Burn Fat Off
“Alcohol is a source of what we call ‘empty calories’,” explained Paul Hough from St Mary’s University. “Those calories don’t have any nutritional value.
“The other thing that alcohol does is that it essentially turns your fat-burning tap off.”
The body doesn’t store alcohol in the same way as it does fat, it has to burn the calories from the alcohol first while it’s in our system.
This means that it essentially prioritises calories from alcohol before the ones available from carbs, protein and fat.
“If you go out for an evening you could drink your daily allowance in terms of calories and that’s added to your body fat stores over time,” added Hough.
7. Yoga Is A Great Time-Filler
Yoga is one of the fastest-growing exercise trends in UK, with 30,000 classes taking place each week in the UK.
It is basically the name given to a series of stretches that work by strengthening core muscles in the body.
What’s equally great about yoga is that you can do it outside of a fitness class. For example, you can do the tree pose while waiting for the kettle to boil, or while brushing your teeth. Equally, try to touch your toes before you get into bed.
“I’m genuinely surprised by how difficult yoga is and can confirm it’s definitely an exercise,” Anna Richardson explained, breathlessly, after trying out a class.
Her conclusion? All exercise is good for you.
‘How To Get Fit Fast’ airs on Channel 4 at 8pm, 7 February.