We all know how important it is to exercise and stay active. However, a study by the World Health Organization published on Wednesday suggests that a third of Britons do not receive the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. I suspect that reality is much worse than that.
This study, like most others, is based on the self-report, which is notoriously unreliable because they trust that people are completely honest and have a meticulously accurate memory.
When the British Heart Foundation equipped people with devices that measured the activity they did, they found that less than six percent reached the recommended levels. Whatever the truth, it is obvious that most of us are not doing enough.
With Exercise Snacking, instead of doing the full 30 minutes at a time, you do the same amount of exercise, but divide it into smaller pieces, like five minutes
An excuse is the lack of time. And it is true that it can be difficult to fit into a 30-minute exercise session five times a week.
Fortunately, there is a new approach that could help. It's called snack exercise. Instead of doing the full 30 minutes at one time, do the same amount of exercise, but divide it into smaller pieces, such as five minutes.
But can it really help to make bursts of five minutes of moderate exercise? For this week's BBC health program, Trust Me I & A Doctor, we decided to find out.
Making a decision
We recruited a group of volunteers who usually do very little exercise. People like Kath, who told me: My activity levels are almost nil. I spend most of the day sitting at a desk in front of a computer.
And there's Debbie, who is worried about her health. "The last time I saw my doctor," he said, "he told me I'm at the limit of diabetes."
Becoming more active is ideal for all kinds of reasons, from helping you sleep better to improving your mood. But what we decided to measure was the impact of the "sandwiches" on blood fats and blood sugar levels of our volunteers. The high levels of either of the two put you at a much higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Dr. Ian Lahart, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wolverhampton, and Dr. James Brown, a specialist in obesity and diabetes at the University of Aston, helped us set up and run this experiment.
Take care of your heart
A muscle that really benefits from a good workout is your heart. A couple of months ago I wrote about the best ways to protect your heart against age and suggested trying the NHS heart age test.
A report by Public Health England last week said that of the 1.9 million people who had so far taken that test, most had heart ages that were higher than their actual age.
One in six men and one in ten women had a heart ten years older than their real age. So, why not do the test and then see what you can do to take care of your heart by reading my article online at mymail.co.uk?
One way to improve things would be to start making some snacks: the type of exercise course.
Our volunteers arrived at the laboratory in three separate days. Each time they had the same delicious breakfast rich in calories, full of fats and carbohydrates. Shortly after breakfast, blood tests were done and then they were given a short break before putting them on a treadmill.
In one day they had to do a single block of 30 minutes walking at a rapid pace. Then, more blood samples were analyzed before lunch, more blood after lunch and then home. Another day they made six batches of five minutes on the tape, distributed during a seven-hour day, with the same amount of blood taken. The third day was the same breakfast, lunch and blood, but they were asked to stay all day without doing any exercise.
After 30 minutes of continuous walking, his blood sugar and blood fats levels were 40 percent lower on average throughout the day than on the day they did not exercise.
But surprisingly, very similar results were observed in the "snack-in-exercise" group, which seems to show that you can get the same benefits from the infrequent approach you can get from longer sessions.
But, more importantly, what was more pleasant?
Kath said she liked to end it all at once.
Debbie, who was worried about developing diabetes, said she preferred the five-minute approach.
The good thing is that now they have a choice.
Muscles can also benefit from exercise snacks. And those are good news. Starting at age 50, we lose approximately one percent of our muscle mass each year, and our strength deteriorates to more than double that rate. If we do not do something about it, this decrease accelerates.
The best way to keep your muscles in good shape is resistance or weight training. But not everyone wants or can go to the gym. Then, the University of Bath has been testing the idea of 'eating sandwiches & # 39;
They recently recruited 20 people between the ages of 65 and 80, which is when the muscle mass loss is actually activated, and divided them into two groups.
One was a group of muscle snacks, which made small muscle building exercises for a few minutes a day, the other was a control group, which did not. The subjects were given some very simple resistance exercises to do.
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Each exercise had to be done as many times as possible in one minute, with a break of one minute before moving on to the next. They did each exercise twice.
The exercises were simple and only involved working against body weight.
They were the 'sit down to stand', which, as the name implies, involves going from sitting in a chair to standing up, getting up to the toes, walking vigorously in the place, extending the Legs to the right while sitting and bending the leg backwards from the knee while standing.
Each session lasted about nine minutes, and they were asked to do this once in the morning and once in the evening for four weeks.
It was not hard and many did it while watching television. The researchers measured the power, strength and muscle size of the subject before and after making their month of eating snacks.
Despite the modest amount of exercise, the subjects saw a five percent improvement in leg muscle strength and a two percent increase in thigh size.
Then, in general, surprisingly significant changes.
Trust that I am a doctor is on BBC2 on Wednesday at 8pm.