Fasting and cardio workouts combine to shed weight quicker

Recent research has found a quick, effective way to lose weight.

Recent research has found a quick, effective way to lose weight.This question is particularly relevant when we tend to abandon good dietary habits on holidays and overindulge.

Much has been written about the effectiveness of the so-called 5:2 diet, which was popularised by a BBC television programme and involves restricting calories by 75 per cent on two non consecutive days and then eating normally for the rest of the week.

Another way of implementing this kind of diet, which is known as intermittent fasting, or IF, is to cut back to 500 calories or eliminate food entirely on alternate days.

Intermittent dieting has been well studied and offers all the benefits of eating less, while reducing the problem of sticking with a reduced-calorie intake on a daily basis. After all, you get to eat normally most days. But there is a way to boost the health benefits of this kind of diet and supercharge your weight loss by adding cardio exercise to the mix.

A team of researchers at the University of Illinois divided obese volunteers into four groups: one group practised alternate day fasting; a second group practised endurance exercise three days a week; a third group did both IF and exercise for 12 weeks; and the fourth control group did none.

The results were pretty striking: the combined exercise and IF group lost an average of 6kg, compared with 3kg weight loss for the IF-only group and just 1kg for the exercise group.

Interestingly, not only did the diet and exercise combination produce more weight loss, but it also helped the subjects’ blood lipid profiles, which are an indicator of heart attack risk. In the group that did both endurance exercise and restricted calories, so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol decreased 12 per cent from the baseline, while the “good” HDL cholesterol increased by an impressive 18 per cent. The other interventions produced no HDL benefit.

What is interesting about this and similar studies is that there has been a growing consensus that diet is much more important than exercise in maintaining good weight. But it is now clear that the two in combination are much more effective than either approach alone.

In addition, the endurance training in this study, which was performed on exercise bikes and elliptical machines in a gym, lasted 25 minutes and was at just 60 per cent of maximum heart rate, growing incrementally to 75 per cent of the maximum at the end of the study.

Surabhi Bhutani, the postdoctoral researcher who led the study, says this is because the subjects were obese and the researchers wanted to avoid the risk of cardiac problems.

But there is quite a lot of evidence that high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involving short bursts of exercise at close to the maximum heart rate, followed by recovery periods, or slightly longer bursts of cardio exercise at 90 per cent of maximum heart rate, is more effective than slow endurance training. And it has the added benefit of taking less time.

I adopted an IF plan with 500 calories alternating with days of normal eating, plus an HIIT programme at 90 per cent of maximum heart rate after my recent Italian sojourn and the added weight came off in about six weeks.


Is playing sport more dangerous than ever?

A spate of deaths during sporting activities – at grassroots and elite level, in recent months has left some wondering if the dangers of playing in sport have increased.

A spate of deaths during sporting activities - at grassroots and elite level, in recent months has left some wondering if the dangers of playing in sport have increased.Cricket was shocked by the death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes last year after he was struck behind the ear by a ball.

And there have been a number of other tragic losses, in rugby league, rugby union and football.

So is playing sport getting more dangerous?

Statistics tell us very little. Up until now, there has been no detailed data on the number or nature of sport injuries treated by GPs or in hospitals.

Statistically sports injuries accounted for roughly 2% of cases seen in emergency departments last year, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

But not everyone is asked how they were injured and the answer is not always noted down, so the total is likely to be much higher.

Rugby union is one sport in which injuries, and particularly concussion, have been well monitored. Last season, in a study of nearly 600 rugby players in England, 13% experienced concussion – the most common rugby injury for the past three years.

As a result, concussion in rugby is now being taken seriously, but the risks are still there because of how the game is played.

Professional rugby players are now much bigger and heavier than they were, and they play a more aggressive form of rugby.

To reduce the risk of serious injury in schools, advocates suggest taking contact out of collision sports such as rugby and football.

To some this might seem extreme, but all games have evolved over time and we just need to make it safer for children and prevent injuries from happening.

Some sports are inherently more dangerous than others.

Snow sports, American football, equestrian sport and sky diving are all more risky than tennis, badminton and athletics, but that doesn’t stop people from doing them.

In fact, more people are taking part in extreme sports such as base jumping and parachuting than ever before.

Dr Mike Loosemore, lead sports physician for the English Institute of Sport, says there is a definite trend towards trying out new and ever more dangerous activities, even though people are not always trained or equipped for them.

In an over protective society, he suggests, it’s one way of getting the adrenaline rush we all crave. And adding lots of protective equipment isn’t a solution to the increased danger.

“Padding just means you get braver. American footballers have massive, well-designed helmets but they don’t stop concussion. Instead they use them as a weapon.”

He says professional rugby players who wear shoulder pads just end up tackling harder.

In general, most sporting bodies are aware of the risks faced by those who take part and try hard to protect them by amending the rules and introducing new policies on injuries.

At an elite level, pushing the body harder and harder does make injuries more likely, but there will always be the risk of a freak accident or an undetected heart condition.

Thanks to round the clock media coverage we are all more aware of fatal injuries in sport when they occur too, which makes them feel more frequent.

At a basic level, sport is attractive because there is some danger involved. Taking that away altogether would change it completely.

Dr Loosemore says removing the risk is dangerous in itself.

“Sport is a way of putting danger into lives in a controlled way. If you get in a certain position it hurts. You don’t want children to get hurt of course, but there is less chance of it happening if they play sport in the real world.”

Fit legs equals fit brain new study suggests

New research suggests that fitter legs may lead to fitter brains.

New research suggests that fitter legs may lead to fitter brains.
Older women who have strong legs are likely to fare better when it comes to ageing of the brain, a decade long study of more than 300 twins suggests.

The King’s College London team says leg power is a useful marker of whether someone is getting enough exercise to help keep their mind in good shape.

Exercise releases chemicals in the body that may boost elderly brains, say the scientists, in the journal Gerontology. But they say more research is needed to prove their hunch.

It is difficult to separate leg strength from other lifestyle factors that may have an impact on brain health and the study did not look specifically at dementia, experts say.

The researchers tracked the health of more than 150 pairs of twin sisters aged between 43 and 73 at the start of the study.

Leg power was measured at the start of the study using a modified piece of gym equipment that measured both speed and power of leg extension, while brain power was measured at both the start and the end of the study using computerised tasks that tested memory and mental processing skills.

Generally, the twin who had more leg power at the start of the study sustained their cognition better and had fewer brain changes associated with ageing measured after 10 years. And the findings remained when other known lifestyle and health risk factors for dementia were included.

Lead researcher Dr Claire Steves said: “When it came to cognitive ageing, leg strength was the strongest factor that had an impact in our study.

“Other factors such as heart health were also important, but the link with leg strength remained even after we accounted for these.

“We think leg strength is a marker of the kind of physical activity that is good for your brain.”

Alzheimer’s Society director of research Dr Doug Brown said the findings added to the growing evidence that physical activity could help look after the brain as well as the body.

“However, we still don’t fully understand how this relationship works and how we can maximise the benefit,” he said. “And we have yet to see if the improvements in memory tests actually translate into a reduced risk of dementia.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK director of research Dr Simon Ridley said: “We know that keeping active generally can help reduce dementia risk, and it’s important to take into account strength training as well as aerobic exercise.”

5 simple tips for getting fit

Getting fit shouldn’t be a chore.

In fact, there are many easy ways to incorporate exercise into your everyday activities or focus on things you already love to do.

If you’re busy, don’t let it stop you.

1.Try and fit more activity into the things you already do every day – whether at home or at work:

Choose the stairs. You’ll get a workout and avoid the awkward elevator rides. For a more strenuous workout, go up and down the stairs for 15 minutes.

Park farther away. Running errands, at work or dropping off kids, park as far away as you can to add a few more steps into your day.

Take walking breaks. Leave your desk occasionally to take a break to walk outside when the weather’s nice or stay inside and explore different areas of the building. This will give you a little stress break and let your eyes rest after staring at a computer screen. Also, it will add in a few more steps and you’ll feel more rejuvenated when you get back to your desk.

2. Do what you love

Maybe you enjoy rollerblading, perfecting your garden or snow skiing with your kids. When you enjoy exercise, you’re more likely to keep it up. You might want to try:Do What You Love

Walking with friends
Trying a new yoga class
Picking up snowshoeing or cross-country skiing
Joining a local recreation basketball or racquetball league
Going swimming at a nearby pool
Shooting hoops
Participating in a dance class
Biking around a local park with your kids

3. Set small, realistic and specific goals

If you decide to pick up jogging, start with running for 30 seconds and walking for two and a half minutes. The next week, run for 45 seconds and walk for one minute. Before you know it, you will be running for two-three minutes before you need to take a short walking break.

And if you have some setbacks, that’s OK. In the end, you’ll see success if you stay consistent.

4. Plan for the long haul

Doctors recommend exercising for 30 minutes at least five times a week at a moderate level of activity (like gardening or walking). If that sounds overwhelming, build on small goals month-by-month.

What else is going to help you reach your goals? Stay patient and positive until you get there – and you will get there.

5. Recruit help from friends

Life changes are much easier to manage with a group of close friends and family supporting you. If you know someone who’s already active, ask them for tips or be brave and join them! In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you exercise, what‘s most important is finding a way to exercise doing what you love and making it a part of your daily routine.

How to train in hot weather

With the recent heatwave we’re passing on some top tips on how to train in hot weather:

top tips on how to train in hot weatherHere are the Cheltenham Personal Trainer’s top tips to follow for working out safely and effectively in the hot weather:

1.  Avoid the 10 am-3 pm peak heat

We’re all familiar with that advice on holiday of staying out of the midday sun between approximately 10 am – 3 pm.

In hot weather at home, it’s best to try to avoid working out then too-  especially if you’re going to be training outside in direct sun.

Our top advice would be to try and get in those early morning workouts that can be such a struggle in the winter months. Now that it is light from as early as 5 am and still cool, it’s a great time to exercise.

Plus, it’s a great feeling to get your workout done first thing. It means you can enjoy the rest of the day and not have to worry about feeling motivated in the evening after a long hot day.

Although the thought of getting up early to exercise– whether that be going for a run, working out on your exercise bike or grabbing the dumbbells – may sound tough, exercise releases endorphins so it’s great for helping boost your mood and kick starting your day.

2. Too hot outdoors? Exercise indoors

As those summer temperatures really are going to soar, so we strongly suggest taking to the great indoors.

Not only will you be away from the potentially harmful heat, but you’ll probably enjoy a more effective workout and can then go and enjoy the sun afterwards. (After a nice cold shower, of course!)

Point a fan towards you- your cardio machines, such as treadmills, elliptical cross trainers and exercise bikes are just brilliant in hot weather.

You can also get some great inexpensive fitness accessories for a top indoor workout, such as resistance bands, medicine balls, kettlebells and dumbbells..

3. Water- a life saver

The great weather offers a great opportunity to take your workout outdoors, but it’s absolutely paramount that you stay well hydrated.

When you sweat, your body doesn’t just lose water – it also loses important electrolytes and salt. Together with water, these are crucial for keeping your body functioning properly. Mess up the balance and you’ll get dehydrated and your performance and health will suffer.

Make sure you’re hydrated before you even start exercising. Have a glass or two of water before you start and keep that water bottle with you throughout your workout. Aim to drink six to eight ounces of water every 15-20 minutes during your workout. And keep drinking after too – it’s critical for maximising your performance and keeping you motivated.

4. Change your exercise routine

To stay motivated, mix up your exercise with activities such as cycling, swimming or jogging. This not only changes up your routine but also allows for greater training volume with less fatigue.

If you can break up your workout into a few shorter sessions in the day, that will help you cope better. Or you could go for a shorter run outside, followed up by some indoor training. This could be on an indoor exercise bike perhaps, or some weights training.

5. Protect yourself from heat and sun

Make sure you wear clothes that are not only lighter in weight and breathable, but also lighter in colour, as this will help to reflect the heat.

And don’t forget to protect exposed skin with sunscreen. Sunscreen is not just for holidays! In the hot weather here, you’re at high risk of sunburn and sunstroke, which can not only be painful, but can also make you very unwell so you won’t be able to train effectively next time.

6. Acclimate yourself to the heat

If you’re exercising outside, it’s important that you let your body get used to it. Exercise for shorter periods outside before taking it indoors and gradually increase the amount of time you can tolerate outdoors. A great tip would be to hunt out those shaded areas away from the direct sunlight.

7. Don’t overdo the exercise

Although some research does indicate that exercising in heat can boost performance, this is really reserved for the elite athlete and much research still needs to be done to get the science backing to support this theory.

Our advice is to listen to your body and know when to stop, or slow down. Working out in average British temperatures is very different to 30 degree plus heat and it’s important to take it seriously. Why not use a heart rate monitor to assess things? If your intensity level rises above your target range, slow down or stop to avoid overworking.

Contact Cheltenham Personal Trainers directory listings

Cheltenham Personal Trainers directory listings for Cheltonians and Gloucestershire workers and residents.

Telephone: 01242 521967

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CheltPersTrain