BBC 3 Minute Fitness – A Review
I’m really enjoying the reaction around the 3 Minute Fitness programme on BBC a couple of nights ago.
What I particularly enjoyed about the programme, was the programme itself! I have found myself increasingly irritated by TV journalism over recent years and a lot of subject matters are glossed over, lack substance and somehow sensationalise topics to increase viewing figures.
I suspect this programme was bettered by the fact that both the journalist & subject matter was Dr Michael Morley, himself. I found him open-minded throughout the programme and deeply interested because of his own personal history with visceral fat as well as his father’s type II diabetes.
So what did I learn & confirm?
Tailored Exercise Works
Doctor’s seem to follow guidelines and guidelines are made for the average person. They know exercise is good but the programme highlighted to me that their thinking is outdated, and unless personally interested in exercise themselve won’t be up to speed with current methods or clinical trials.
Dedicated fitness professionals who live, breath & regularly investigate current methods & trials may be the place to go for advice. They will know how to deliver the results you are looking for and in a way that matches you and your individual response types to those results.
Genetics Is Not An Excuse
1. Super Responders – those people who can seriously improve on their cardio performance. This was tested by measuring their VO2Max levels. Super Responders can easily double their cardiovascular performace. They account for 15% of people.
2. Non-Responders – these are people who show minimal or no changes in their VO2Max levels. They account for 20% of people. At the end of the trial Michael Morley discovered that he fell into this group and although his VO2Max level did not increase over the trial period of 3 minutes of exercise per week, he could exercise for longer. That in itself is an improvement.
In many ways, this is not new news. We know some people are awesome athletes, some people find it hard to change and everyone else has varying degress of success.
Aesthetically, we mortals often relate to this in terms of body shapes. Women discuss apple, pear & hourglass shapes. Men may refer to meso, ecto & endo body shapes & bulking up (this also applies to women, BTW!).
Again, the lesson learnt and the major focus is that a body does not metamorphosise into another body shape. It is about making the body we have function at its best.
So, to me, this means that regardless of someone’s genetic pre-disposition, everyone can make changes in their fitness levels.
Two key things were highlighted:
1. Exercising or raised cardiovascular activity (a strenuous walk was used during the programme) kick started the release of lipoprotein lipase. Yeah! WOW! you say – and yet I hear, ‘so what?’
This enzyme ensures that we use our fat stores and allows fats to be processed for energy. During the programme, Michael Morley ate a traditional British fry-up. 4 hours later he had a blood test. This created a baseline reading. That evening he walked for 90 minutes, ate a fry up the next morning, had another blood test and the level of fat in his blood had decreased by a third. Lipoprotein Lipase is activated by… activity!
The cool part was seeing the fat in the test tubes for both readings. This was far more effective and real-world than slabs of butter or lard used to highlight the extra fat we can carry around.
2. NEAT/Mayo Clinic review – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – this showed that being sedentary is a killer. In fact they have effectively said your fondness of your chair will kill you.
By taking sensor readings over a 24hour period they could see the levels of activity a person undertakes. Doing anything other than sitting raised an individual’s metabolic rate. Let’s face it, most of us have desk jobs and likely hold more tummy weight than we would like. When Michael Morley sat less and simply walked around the office, took stairs and didn’t even break a sweat at all during any of it, he increased his calories burnt by 500 cals per day. Isn’t this the deficit we need to lose weight slowly, surely & safely?
HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training
This has been used by good quality personal trainers for some time. It’s not new for them or for their clients. I suspect those who looked in on it up to now considered it a ‘fitness fad’.
HIIT focuses on all out bursts of cardiovasular activity followed by short rests and repeating that cycle.
This is what the 3 minute Exercise test is all about. 3 bursts of 20 seconds all out exercise.
Where people miss the point is that it’s all about being all-out exercise. You need to be pushed to your maximum for this to work.
In the programme you won’t see Michael Morley doing this on his own. Each time you see him doing HIIT he is being egged on my someone pushing him to get through 20 seconds at full pelt.
This is why it works best in conjunction with a Personal Trainer. Trainers are invaluable in pushing you that extra bit.
If you want Michael Morley results you will need someone to push you. That’s good. It works.
What it also shows is that long cardio sessions don’t necessarily deliver the same results. Smarter not longer, as they say.
And I look at this from a very personal angle where I found that I loved doing long runs. I found the rhythmn & pace quite meditative, but unfortunately I’m not someone who can endure them. I’m sure I could progressively build up to a long run again but I now find that short explosive burts of activity (such as plyo work or body weight work) have improved my functional fitness in a real sense which I can apply to volleyball, badminton, swimming or even running up stairs.
The programme illustrated this well. Place Michael Morley in an oxygen depleted cabin. Make him do strenuous CV then make him try to move a weight with his leg (a gym styled leg raise). He can’t do it. Then zap an electrical current to his head and his leg can then lift the weight.
The electical current has made up the deficit his brain has created in his muscles. His muscles have the capability but the brain ‘says no’. Over-ride that command and he can lift the weight.
Therefore, the weakest link in our drive for being healthier or fitter is not our bodies. It’s our brain and its influence over what we think we can do. This influence can help or hinder and highlights that left to our own devices we can’t necesarily deliver the intensity or degree of change we desire. Often times, we need an external force to deliver it (whether it’s fear of ill health or a trainer who can draw out those extra two push-ups) but it’s a starting point and a key part of building upon our own levels of motivation & commitment.
- Smarter cardio sessions show tangible (nay, clinical!) benefits in dealing with fat loss where it matters – e.g. around our organs
- Just because it’s shorter in timeframe the intensity is what delivers the result – e.g. quality not quantity
- Keep Moving – e.g. being sendentary will slow down your metabolism. Keep the body’s furness burning by making it need fuel. Make that fuel your fat stores
- Health & exercise or fitness gets better results when it’s tailored to the individual – e.g. personal goals & development plans. Michael Morley’s own investigation was personal which gave it extra meaning & gravitas
- We need additional force applied to ensure the brain keeps focused on the physiological demands placed on the body – e.g. support, training, coaching