Exercise for the lazy at heart

Judith Wills / 08 August 2014

Research shows even a tiny amount of exercise can make a big difference.

Well what a wonderful week or two it's been for the lazy at heart, i.e. - me, and perhaps even a few others. We people who do stuff such as formal exercise only because we feel we've got to – or maybe, mostly, don't do it at all and instead just suffer huge, life-sapping guilt. And we people (not me, I hasten to say) who even in their 60s, 70s and 80s, still go out jogging, pounding the pavements and wrecking their joints in the name of good health, while secretly wondering if it's all worth it.

Now, suddenly, the sun has come out in all ways for us, as we find out there's no need to feel guilty at all. No need to DO it!

It's been one of those periods when almost every kind of health research has found in favour of the idle and/or the legions who do it, but find it boring. Almost everything we thought we knew about exercise has been turned on its head!

It started off with the news, from a group at Iowa University, that yes, jogging can be good for you, but you don't need to go mad – 49 minutes a week, or 7 a day, is just as good for the heart and health as 3 hours a week. And you can go almost as slow as you want, there's no need to hurry, they found.

Then, things got even better. Researchers at Abertay University in Scotland released life-changing – or at the very least, guilt-killing - news that had all us lazies cracking open the prosecco.

You can get fit in just a few seconds. A few seconds! Yes. We can all – at whatever age and whatever level of fitness – get fit and lose weight in TWO minutes a week. Honestly, it isn't April Fool's day and I'm not kidding.

The researchers put volunteers aged from 61 to 74 through just minutes of high-intensity training (HIT) a week and after six weeks, despite not changing their eating habits, they'd lost an average of 1kg of fat, and had average drops in blood pressure of 9% and increases in aerobic fitness of a massive 8%, with blood glucose also falling up to 20%.

These results are, joking aside, absolutely fantastic and should make every one of us Saga people feel happy, empowered and grateful that with just a small amount of do-able effort, each and every one of us may be able to see huge results.

This past couple of months have been some of my busiest in my entire life, workwise and the short, sharp workout that is HIT is just what I'm needing – I've done it, even including a short warm up and cool down, in the time it would normally take me to gather my motivation, put on my walking boots and get out of the door.

Then, to add to the general air of mass relief pervading the health pages, we also found that five portions of fruit and vegetables a day are more than enough for good health, so there's no need to shovel down kale or lentil soup all day unless you want to.

But – and there is a small but (well it's a big but actually but I didn't want to break the jolly atmosphere) - there is one thing you do need to do if you want to stay healthy. And that's get off your bum whenever you can. Those spoilsports at University College London ruined our week by releasing research to show that sitting down for hours on end is no good for us at all, leading to much greater risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Well there had to be one fly in the ointment for us idlers, didn't there? Never mind – there's always next week. Could be some kind professor will find out lying down is fine.

PS if you're not in good health and want to try HIT, do get checked out and okayed by your doctor first.

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