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Summer lovin’ . . .

I can’t believe how we’ve arrived at summer – half way through what has been a year of expansion …

Feeling slightly out of sorts – the excessive rain and dampness is really playing havoc with the old bod and those of my clients. Hot/cold, wet/dry – I hardly know what to wear or eat – the small jobs in everyday life taking just that bit longer to manoeuvre; too much yo-yoing is definitely not good for my soul!

Equally, my disposition has not been helped by the plethora of poorly delivered health stories in the media – it was precisely this type of conflicting and confusing information that inspired the writing of Your Health is Your Wealth. I won’t bore you with all the stories that have surfaced over the last couple of months with regards to training, food and health but will focus on a few of the most unhelpful.

‘You only need to exercise three minutes a week to be healthy!’

Don’ t believe the hypethis sensational headline appeared in the press back in February and more recently this month, following the showing of a Horizon programme titled ‘The Truth About Exercise’. The programme makers pushed the idea that performing as little as three minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIT) a week will give you the same results as months of traditional exercise programmes. This is misleading and irresponsible, especially as a substantial volume of work suggests the reverse.

  • HIT is only for the elite or small number of already fit people, because it can make you feel sick and is uncomfortable. If you’re a regular exerciser, HIT should already be part of your workout schedule, but not a technique suitable for a beginner.
  • It can be dangerous – there is an increased risk of injury especially when sprinting and not everyone is happy to sit on a bike.
  • It narrowly defines health in terms of two benefits: largely its ability to control insulin and glucose and aerobic capacity. In my book, health is a mind, body and emotionally dynamic – HIT certainly does not deliver on several levels and can leave you feeling more stressed post workout.
  • Equally, the programme failed to address the neurological adaptations of exercise – it takes the body longer than three minutes in a workout for the body to relax enough for the brain to release stress-busting hormones such as serotonin and dopamine or reduce blood pressure, all of which make you feel a whole lot better than when you started.
  • Although many people site a lack of time as the reason for not exercising, studies have shown that HIT does not encourage people to become more active – many still could not find the time for even a three-minute workout!
  • HIT does not burn many calories due to the short period of time, so will not help those seeking to lose weight or change body shape.
  • Exercise alone is not enough to control weight or become healthy, especially over the age of 35 – balanced diet and positive mental health contribute volumes to your physical well-being.
  • Like all aerobic exercise, but more so with HIT, it increases your appetite, which can sabotage weight-loss plans – you really need strong will power and a great nutritional programme to keep on track.
  • More and more research points to the importance of non-exercise activity in helping us to burn calories; this includes fidgeting, standing, walking, etc and it is often neglected as an important way of burning calories.

On balance, with regards to the bigger picture of health and fitness, the HIT story is of little value, particularly when effective exercise programming today is an increasingly personalised process – each individual has a unique set of variables that defy block prescription, but hey, this would probably not have made the headlines …

See you next time,