4 Little Known Exercise Tips from BBC’s Professor Jason Gill
Jamie Sukroo - 24 May 2021
I attended a New Scientist online seminar last week by Professor Jason Gill entitled “The Truth About Exercise”
Here are 4 things I learned from the seminar that I must admit I never new before (apart from perhaps the bit on HIIT):
Going from low or no exercise to a small amount of moderate exercise can have huge health benefits! The government guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate exercise (e.g. walking at a pace where you can still talk but not sing – circa 4km/hr or 2.5 miles/hr) seem to be missing the point a little. Even 5 minutes per day of moderate exercise can cut mortality risk by 30%. Jumping up only slightly to 20 minutes can cut mortality risk by 40% (the maximum reduction possible from exercise alone). So the message is – don’t get dis-heartened if you fall short of government guidelines as they seem a bit over the top (in terms of reducing mortality risk).
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is very good for you. Research conducted by Professor Gill using a 6 cycle HIIT session (1 x 30 second all out sprint, followed by a 4.5 minute rest per cycle repeated six times) showed a 23% improvement in insulin sensitivity, 18% increase in fat oxidisation, and a 5% reduction in systolic blood pressure. The sprint session needs to be “all-out” though – imagine a bear chasing you!
Muscle strengthening / resistance training (twice a week) is just as important as aerobic exercise like walking, running and cycling. Studies have shown that if you maintain muscle mass as you age you reduce your risk of injuries later in life e.g. falling. Professor Gill mentioned that in (yet to be confirmed) research – 70% of the benefit comes in the first set of a weight or resistance exercise, and 70% of the benefit comes in your first session of the week. The professor hypothesises that you could get at least 70% of the benefits of a twice a week weight/resistance regime by exercising to exhaustion on only 1 set of each exercise once a week! I have taken on some of this knowledge by going all out on my first push-up set, first sit-up set, and first weight’s set. Most bang for your buck comes from the first repetition!
Being sedentary during your waking hours becomes a real issue at around 9.25 hours+ of sitting – this is where you have an increased risk of mortality. Standing desks don’t seem to improve metabolic health (reduce insulin and blood glucose) but even light walking does. So the message is get up often from your desk and e.g. walk to the photocopier, make a cup of tea or coffee etc. On a side note – these breaks away from your desk are also good for focus and attention once you are back at your desk. A real win/win.