‘Exercise. I know I should, but I don’t particularly enjoy it,
‘I begrudge the time and I never seem to make much progress.
‘So I wanted to find out
‘what I should be doing, how much and why.
‘If, like me, you thought exercise was just about
‘pounding the streets or hitting the gym for hours on end,
‘then prepare to be amazed.’
Push, push, push, push!
‘I’ve been meeting scientists who are changing our view of exercise.’
Come on, Michael! Come on! You can do it!
‘They’ve discovered that we all respond to exercise in very different ways…’
These guys here are super responders. Keep driving!
‘..and I’ve looked at some extraordinary new research
‘which suggests we can get many of the health benefits of exercise from just three minutes a week.’
– Three, two, one, and that’s you done.
It goes against absolutely everything I was taught
at medical school and everything I have read since.
‘And research is also showing us how, without breaking a sweat,
‘we can all live healthier and longer lives.’
That’s a reduction of a third.
You’ve got about a third less fat going round in your bloodstream.
The truth about exercise
has turned out to be a whole lot stranger than I had imagined.
Research coming out of the laboratories is challenging long-held beliefs.
It has altered the way I live my life,
and it may alter the way you live yours.
I’m going to start by putting myself in the lion’s den,
to see what I can learn from people who really push their bodies to the limit.
This is Loughborough University.
It is the training ground for many of our Olympic hopefuls.
It is incredibly impressive, but also rather intimidating,
seeing all these super fit young men and women here.
I’ve come to meet Will Sharman, who’s aiming for a medal
in the 110m hurdles at London 2012.
I’ve been just outside the medals in the past two World Championships
and it’s about time I get myself into the medals.
– With the crowd cheering you on?
– Yeah, it should help a lot.
Do you find the actual exercise itself enjoyable?
There are some things within my training components
that are gruelling, and I don’t enjoy them at the time.
– It’s horrible.
– Such as?
Er, such as when you have lactic acid in your legs,
it’s really painful.
When I’m doing a difficult running session and it feels like my lungs are on fire
because I can’t breathe very easily. I can’t get enough oxygen in in time.
These things aren’t nice at the time, but I do them
because they’re a vehicle towards what I’m trying to achieve.
You’re doing currently 30 hours training a week
and I’m doing currently no hours of training a week.
So it’ll be interesting… Do you fancy a little race?
OK, let’s do it.
You’ll have to go gently, I haven’t done this for a long time.
‘As the camera crew set up to film our epic contest,
‘and having only had time to place this small trackside camera,
‘Will and I prepared for our head-to-head
‘with what was meant to be a warm-up.
‘But after just three paces, I pulled a muscle.’
And then suddenly it went ping.
What I was doing was taking it easy
because it was just a practice.
I was warming up into it, whereas you really went for it on the first go
because you didn’t want to lose to me,
which is quite good that you’ve got that fighting spirit in you,
but not good in the sense that you weren’t ready to do that physically.
‘That’s the first truth about exercise.
‘You can easily hurt yourself if you’re not prepared.’
Three, two, one, go, jump.
‘The difference between a Ferrari like Will
‘and a hatchback like myself is not just down to training.’
You are about 5,500 to 6,000 watts.
Three times more powerful than someone like myself.
Could I ever achieve figures like that?
Well, it depends a lot on your parents’ genes and your genes.
– Short answer is probably not.
– Short answer is no.
If I want a six pack, what do I have to do?
You’ve got one already. I think you’re just hiding it.
The first thing you need to do perhaps is just reveal it.
– I think probably not(!)
– The amount of exercise you’re doing
will reflect upon how much
– body fat you’re carrying as well.
– Have you got a six pack?
– Indeed. Always.
– Can I see?
– You want to see?
– I want to see.
Oooh, yes, there you go.
So Will’s probably got about 4% to 5% body fat.
It’s quite low, yeah.
‘Most of us are realistic enough to know
‘we’re not going to be going for gold
‘or getting a body like Will’s.
‘But we do want to firm up and make some progress on the waistline.’
One of the main reasons that people decide to do exercise
is because they think it’s going to help them lose weight.
Now, at a simple level, that makes complete sense.
Burn the calories, the weight drops off.
But is it really as simple as that?
So this morning, what we’re going to do
– is get you to do some exercise around the track…
..and we’ve got a portable respiratory device here.
‘Exercise physiologist Dr Keith Tolfrey
‘is about to demonstrate an uncomfortable truth
‘about the relationship between exercise and weight loss.’
So you’re going to be measuring the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide that I exhale?
It collects a small sample
and works out the concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
If we look at the ratio between those two,
we can then estimate how much fat and carbohydrate you’re using.
That’s a great pace, Michael.
‘By measuring what I breathe in and out, Keith can work out
‘how many calories I burn while jogging along at six miles-an-hour.’
Good speed. Well done.
‘The data is transmitted live to a track-side computer.’
And that should be great. Well done. Well done.
‘He then does the calculations and gives me the bad news.’
Whilst you were doing the run,
you were using approximately 16 calories every minute.
– That doesn’t sound a lot.
‘Keith then rubs it in by pointing out how long I would have to run
‘to burn off a selection of foods.’
Let’s talk about the energy in these.
We’re looking at a cappuccino, a blueberry muffin
and a banana, which most people would consider to be healthy.
If we look at all of these things together,
how long do you think you would have to exercise, at that running pace,
to use the energy that’s in these three different foods?
Erm, 20 minutes, half-an-hour.
– Yeah, well, the actual answer is 55 minutes.
– So it would take you 55 minutes at that speed to use the energy that’s just in this.
So it’s going to take you quite some time if you try and use exercise
all on its own to use up this amount of energy.
Super, Michael. That’s really good.
‘That’s a lot of running to burn off a mid-morning snack.
‘In the long term, very few people are willing to put in the hours
‘that are necessary to lose weight and keep it off.
‘What’s worse, research shows that some people
‘unconsciously compensate for doing exercise by eating more.
‘The danger is, basically, they think it’s going to work,’
then they step on the scales,
they’ve been exercising an hour a week, two hours a week
and they’re exactly the same weight.
In the short term, that’s not going to work, no.
What’s really funny
is that even as we’ve been standing here talking,
I’ve just been unconsciously sipping at this because it’s in my hand.
Without even thinking about it, I have just drunk about a third of this cappuccino.
That’s a good 60 or 70 calories, 15 minutes round the track.
‘If you really want to lose weight and keep it off,
‘you have to control what you eat as well.
‘But if you don’t see the pounds dropping off, don’t despair
‘because many of the most important benefits of exercise
‘lie hidden deep inside your body.
‘So what are these hidden benefits?
‘If losing weight is not the right motivation, why bother?
‘Well, one of the most remarkable effects of even gentle exercise
‘is what it does to the levels of fat in your blood.’
I’ve come to meet Dr Jason Gill of Glasgow University
who has promised me a delicious Scottish breakfast.
Now, I suspect his motivations are more scientific than altruistic,
because he’s going to show me something which he thinks
will really shock me, shake me out of my lazy ways.
OK. That’s impressive.
Right, I wasn’t expecting anything quite like that.
It’s quite nice actually because normally I would feel
extraordinarily guilty eating a breakfast like this.
– You’re doing this for science.
– Exactly. I’ve got my excuses.
Ooh, nice bit of bacon here.
The amount of fat in that is not going to be that dissimilar
to the amount people eat during the course of the day.
The fat’s going to go into your gut, then into your bloodstream.
While the fat’s in your bloodstream, it’s causing a number of changes to metabolism
which increase the risk of fatty deposits forming
on the walls of your blood vessels.
‘And if you think it sounds bad, wait till you see it.’
Very good. Normally when people say sharp scratch,
it precedes something that’s really quite painful.
‘Four hours after breakfast
‘and Jason is extracting a sample of my blood,
‘which he then spins in a high-speed centrifuge
‘to separate out the fat.’
I would expect by this point,
well over four hours later, for there to be very little fat.
OK. Well, we’ll see. Are you feeling hungry still?
I’m feeling a bit peckish. I could eat a bit more.
There we go.
‘The result is a graphic display of my blood before
– ‘and after that fatty breakfast.’
– This is the one
after you had breakfast. So that’s the fat from the food you’ve eaten,
spun up right there. So you can see the sort of creamy, milky stuff
and that’s been going round in your circulation the whole time.
We can compare that with what’s happened
before you’ve eaten the meal,
and you can see there’s not very much fat there at all.
Indeed. So in this one here, there’s actually quite a lot of fat.
You’ve got twice as much fat in that one compared to this one.
Eating that meal has doubled the fat in your bloodstream.
OK. That’s quite scary, isn’t it?
‘And that’s just the fat in a tiny blood sample.
‘Multiply by a thousand
‘and you get the amount of fat in my bloodstream from one fry-up.
‘Apart from damage to blood vessels,
‘there’s also the worrying question of where the fat ends up.’
It goes into all of your fat stores.
What we know though is not all fat stores are equal, in terms of risk.
Fat which is held under the surface of your skin,
what we call subcutaneous fat,
is a lot less bad for you than the fat that’s deep within you.
So fat that we call visceral fat which is the fat on the inside,
inside your tummy and also fat stored in the liver and round the pancreas,
seems to do a lot more harm than fat held on the surface of your skin.
Particularly fat held beneath your waist is certainly not bad for you
and it might actually be protective.
OK. You’ve convinced me there’s something pretty nasty going on.
– What do you want me to do next?
– I’d like you to go for a walk.
Seeing all that fat sitting floating around in my blood was unpleasant.
What was even more unpleasant though was thinking about
where that fat was heading for.
I discovered a few years ago that I am what’s called a TOFI,
thin on the outside, fat inside. I have a lot of visceral fat,
the sort of fat that lines your internal organs
and that is not good.
‘It was while making a film about weight loss
‘that I went for an MRI scan at Hammersmith Hospital
‘and got a nasty shock.’
And the fat here, which is all the white inside you,
and you can clearly see here…
What you’re saying, basically, is I have unhealthy large amounts of internal fat
and this is something I really ought to be doing something about?
Absolutely. These are related to the development of type II diabetes
and insulin resistance which is something you want to avoid.
– Yes. My father had diabetes.
– Oh. Type II diabetes?
As I say, there’s a very direct correlation
– between the amount of fat.
‘For about a year, I did more exercise in an attempt
‘to lose my visceral fat.
‘Then, typically, I slipped back into sloth.
‘But seeing that fat in my blood
has brought it home with a vengeance.
My enquiry into the truth about exercise
has become intensely personal.
OK, same cafe,
same meal as yesterday.
The only real difference is that last night
I went out for a long walk.
Now, that walk should have triggered in my body
the production of an enzyme, which in turn should alter
how my body processes the fat I’m about to eat.
Let’s find out.
Science lesson two.
‘Just like yesterday,
‘four hours after eating, Jason takes a sample of blood.
‘After much spinning and separating,
‘I’m presented with the tubes.’
So again, what we see here,
this is before you had the meal. There’s not any fat in it.
– Very much like yesterday.
– This is the one after the meal.
You can see quite clearly
there’s substantially less fat in the sample today
after you’ve done the exercise,
than yesterday when you didn’t do the exercise. So it’s quite stark.
Markedly different, isn’t it?
– What were the actual numbers?
– We’ve got the numbers.
So yesterday you had numbers of 2.41.
They’ve dropped to 1.66.
– That’s a reduction of a third.
You have about a third less fat in your bloodstream.
A third less fat interacting with the walls of your blood vessels.
That means you’ve substantially reduced your chance
of these fatty deposits building up on the walls of your blood vessels.
So it’s a double win situation.
You’re sucking the fat out of your blood, but at the same time,
– it’s dumped in the muscle where most of it is burnt off.
Rather than going into my gut and doing some bad things there.
The walking switched on genes
that make an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase,
and it was this that produced
the impressive 33% fall in the amount of fat in my blood.
The trouble is, in order to produce that result,
I had to do 90 minutes of pretty hard walking yesterday,
and I can imagine doing it occasionally,
but nothing like as often as I probably need to do it.
What I really need to do is find a form of exercise which is effective,
which I can fit into my busy family life,
and which I can honestly imagine
going on doing for the next few decades.
The question is – what?
I’ve come to the University of Nottingham
which is at the centre of some really exciting new research
that could change the way we see exercise.
The Government guidelines are clear.
150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week
or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
But there are some scientists
who suggest that actually, what we should be doing
is radically rethinking our whole approach to exercise.
If you do those levels, great.
The trouble is, two-thirds of us don’t.
Professor Jamie Timmons is part of an international group of scientists
looking for new ways to get everyone exercising.
So, Jamie, what’s wrong with the guidelines?
The biggest problem with them
is really the fact that they’re not personalised.
The guidance is based on how the average person
would respond to exercise,
but we’ve known for some time now that there’s a huge variation
in how people actually respond and benefit from exercise,
and so there’s actually no guarantee
that recipe will give you the right results.
MUSIC: “Pump It” by the Black-Eyed Peas
I don’t know about you,
but I must admit, these places absolutely fill me with horror.
I used to come in,
I would go madly cycling around on one of those for an hour or so.
I’d kind of FEEL a bit better,
but I never seemed to actually get much fitter.
Is that possible?
It is possible you’d be getting not as many benefits as you might expect.
You’ll certainly have people
which are not getting much fitter or improving their metabolism.
They may get some other health benefits, or social benefits
from the exercise, but they’ll not get everything they expect.
In a four-year study, 1,000 people were made to exercise
four hours a week for 20 weeks.
And though, on average, their fitness improved,
when Jamie looked at the data in detail,
he found people responded very differently
to exactly the same amount of training.
And if you look at the data, say, from 1,000 people,
what you find is that we’ve got a graph that’s a bit like this.
So there are some people over here
getting one hell of a lot of benefit from it.
Yeah. These guys here are super responders.
– These guys here, no change.
How many people fall into these two groups?
That’s about 20% of the population
and the upper end, the extreme, is about 15%.
That is one hell of a scary statistic, I have to say.
Jamie and his collaborators
investigated the reasons for these variations
and discovered much of it can be traced to just 11 genes.
They’ve now developed a genetic test
that can predict how an individual will respond.
I want to be in that group.
I don’t want to be in this group.
How do I know if I’m likely to be in that group or not?
Well, one way of doing it is we can take a blood test now
and we can test for the DNA sequences around the genes
– that we know are important for this adaptation.
Or we can put you through 20 weeks
of really intense, hard slog and training
and find out which end of the spectrum you belong to.
OK, I think I prefer the gene test.
Thank you, wow.
That is striking.
Even a fitness non-responder will get some benefit from exercise.
And identifying them means
you can offer other ways of improving health.
This type of approach would be an absolute sea change
because at the moment, the public health message is simply a sort of
“one size fits all.”
Really, we have to think of exercise
as just one other way of improving our health
and therefore, we need to tailor it to the needs of that individual.
That was really interesting.
Jamie made me question
quite a number of things I thought I really knew about exercise.
For example, I assumed that
the more exercise you do, the better it was for you.
Well, that may not necessarily be true.
But the other thing which really surprised me
was how far genetics has gone
in improving our understanding of exercise.
We’re already pointing firmly towards an era of personalised medicine.
It could be we will also shortly be in the era of personalised exercise.
In the morning, I’m going to visit the lab.
As well as taking a sample of my DNA,
Jamie’s going to introduce me
to a radical time-saving exercise routine.
Forget several hours a week,
we’re talking just a few minutes a week.
Sounds too good to be true.
Well, it’s morning time
and I’m about to go off to the lab
where they’re going to run a whole lot of tests.
Apparently, I have to do that fasting
so for the last ten hours or so I’ve been eating nothing,
just sipping delicious water.
It’s going to be the beginning, also,
of a new, short, sharp and rather brutal exercise regime, I’m told.
I’m sort of looking forward to it, but I’m also a bit anxious
because I don’t know what they’re going to find
when they do the blood test.
For some reason, I’m holding my breath while you take the blood.
So that’s the stuff that’s going off for the DNA test, is it?
That is the stuff that’s going off to the DNA test.
Actually, outside our clinical studies,
you’re the first volunteer we’re applying the test to
in an independent way like this.
‘Before Jamie puts me on his short, sharp regime,
‘he wants to measure two of the most important health factors
‘that can be dramatically improved through exercise.’
– Don’t spill any.
– How many teaspoons of sugar in here?
– That’s 15, isn’t it?
‘The first is my insulin sensitivity.’
‘Insulin removes sugar from the blood,
‘it controls fat,
‘and when it becomes ineffective, you become diabetic.
I’m given a sugary drink
‘and over the next two hours, they take regular samples
‘to see how quickly my insulin gets rid of that sugar from my blood.’
Well. The news is not perfect
but what we can see from this graph,
your blood glucose obviously went up as we expect,
and then it slowly drifted down,
just below the level we would call impaired glucose tolerance.
So you’re just within the healthy range.
– But only just.
And what we’d like to do is see this, presumably…that’s fine,
but what I actually want to do is see something more like that.
Exactly. And that’s what we hope the exercise intervention will solve.
– Well, that gives me a great deal of incentive to do it, doesn’t it?
The second important factor is my aerobic fitness,
how good my heart and lungs are at getting oxygen into my body.
Come on, Michael! Come on!
You can do it. A bit more!
Come on, Michael. Keep going!
‘Jamie now has a measure
‘of the maximum amount of oxygen my body is able to use –
‘my VO2 max.
‘It’s not just an indicator of how fit I am,
‘but also a powerful predictor of future health.’
OK, thanks for the encouragement.
When it’s scaled to your body weight, it’s 37 mils per kg.
And an Olympic athlete might be something like 75…
– But many people in the population are in the 20s.
Why does it matter?
– For health?
– The simple answer is, we don’t know.
It’s just a very, very powerful marker in epidemiological studies
for future all-cause mortality.
‘In other words, if I can improve my VO2 max
‘and my insulin sensitivity, I will probably live longer.’
Is this another piece of training or is this the real thing?
No, now we’re onto the real thing, Michael.
‘Jamie and his colleagues have shown it is possible
‘to improve those health markers
‘with a remarkably short amount of exercise.
‘It’s a new, evolving field of study
‘that has really taken off in the last few years.’
What we’re going to do is introduce you to the HIT protocol,
the High Intensity Training protocol,
which, over a period of just a few minutes a week,
we should be able to demonstrate
that you can dramatically reduce your response to a glucose drink.
You see, this I find utterly, utterly unbelievable, I have to say.
I mean, I knew, because I had read your research before I came,
you were going to say this,
but it goes against absolutely everything I was taught
when I was at medical school, and everything I have read since.
How long do I have to do?
Today, you’re going to be cycling maximally for about 20 seconds
and then you’re going to have a short rest,
– and you’re going to repeat that two more times.
That really doesn’t sound like exercise, I have to say.
– Three bursts of 20 seconds?
I have to do this how often a week?
We would like you to do it three times a week.
It only adds up to a grand total of three minutes,
that’s just three minutes of high-intensity exercise a week
and that is absolutely nothing.
Well, we’ll show you it’s actually quite a lot
for the metabolism in your muscle
and it will make a really good difference.
The whole industry around exercise says, “Do more, do more, do more,”
and the only way of getting any benefit
– is through huge amounts of pain and huge amounts of time.
– Of course.
And you’re saying the complete reverse.
Well, you can imagine the drivers for that.
For example, if you’re doing lots and lots of high volume exercise,
you need to buy a lot of equipment, a lot of kit, running shoes etc.
Here, you could do this in your suit if you really wanted to.
– OK, if you want to start pedalling in three, two, one…
OK, and go as fast as you can.
Sprinting, sprinting. That’s looking really good.
Excellent, excellent. Keep it going.
20 seconds is quite a long time!
– Keep it going!
– Five seconds to go.
Three, two, one…
And stop pedalling.
– Stop there for a bit.
That is different! OK…
‘Over the past six or seven years’
laboratories in the US, Canada and my laboratory in the UK
have all demonstrated that this approach
achieves many of the health benefits that people expect to get
if they committed two or thee hours to working out in the gym,
but most importantly, it’s based on strong science.
So how can such a short bit of exercise have any benefit at all?
That’s the magic question, really.
The key thing about this exercise is
it really breaks down the glycogen stores in the muscle
and that’s really how the glucose is stored.
And that’s the key signal from the muscle to the bloodstream
saying, “I need to take up more.”
You’re basically disturbing your homeostasis,
you’re shaking things up a bit, breaking down storage in the muscle
and then the muscle suddenly thinks,
“perhaps I do need more glucose,” and sucks it out of the blood.
Exactly. What’s even better about this type of protocol
is that unlike walking or jogging
where you’re only maybe activating 20, 30% of your muscle tissue,
here you’re activating 70 or 80%,
so you’re really creating a much bigger sync.
Three, two, one, and go!
Go, go, go.
– That’s right.
– OK, how about…
– Last bit to go.
Three, two, one,
‘HIT won’t suit everyone.
‘It’s short, but extremely intense.
‘If you have a pre-existing medical problem,
‘you should have a check-up before you start.’
I understand how it could
improve your glucose
and therefore insulin sensitivity,
although I’m obviously going to want to see that actually happen.
But what about the VO2 max?
It’s very difficult to see how
I could basically make my whole cardiovascular system fitter
in such a short period of time.
I think the key observation here is,
look and feel the way you’re breathing.
You really are giving yourself a full body workout there.
It does take longer to get the aerobic fitness changes,
maybe six weeks as opposed to two weeks
for the insulin and glucose changes.
But after about six weeks of this,
you will begin to get an improvement in your maximum aerobic capacity.
I shall be absolutely fascinated.
I remain sceptical, but I shall give it a good old go.
– Shall I have one final burst?
– Final sprint?
Three, two, one, and go.
OK, as fast as you can.
– Keep it going.
That’s looking really good.
Keep driving. Keep it going.
– Ooh, my legs.
– Keep going.
Almost there. Five, four, three,
two, one. And that’s you done.
– Way to go.
OK, it’s the end of the day and I’m feeling surprisingly knackered.
In a moment, we’re going to pile all this stuff in the van
and we’re going to head off round the country
because I want to find out a few more truths about exercise.
I’m going to take this with me because over the next month,
three times a week, I’m going to get on it
and I’m going to pedal like crazy for one minute,
which means over the next month,
I’m going to do a total of 12 minutes’ intense exercise.
And apparently, that is going to make all the difference.
Now, I am really very sceptical, but I’m absolutely dying to do it.
I think I can afford 12 minutes
and I’m going to come back and find out, and if it really does work,
I am going to be absolutely shaken to my core
and I think it’s really going to change things.
But it’s the end of the day, it’s time to roll,
and I think I need a bit of help getting this in the van.
Guys, could you come and help me heave it? Thank you.
OK, if you grab that end…
As well as doing short bursts of high-intensity training,
I’m also going to try something else.
Something so low-intensity, I wouldn’t call it exercise.
It involves no machines, no sweat,
no cost, and is big news
for those of us who spend too much time on our backsides.
– Hello there.
– Hey, how are you?
Would you care for a seat?
No, thank you.
‘Dr James Levine is an obesity expert.
‘His research suggests the best way to lose weight and improve health
‘is to increase your NEAT.’
OK, so what is NEAT?
NEAT is Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
That’s the calories you burn in your everyday living.
All the movements you do that represent living your life.
Getting up in the morning, going to bed at night,
even movements while you’re sleeping, that’s NEAT.
Many of us spend 12 hours a day in a chair.
Literally 12 hours a day in a chair,
those are 12 hours of not moving.
– It’s an extraordinary number.
– I’m sure I don’t, do I?
– You do, I bet.
– We’re going to find out.
Known by the public as fidget pants,
we call these NEAT underwear.
You can see first of all there are holes,
– and the holes are for obvious biological purposes.
However, attached to the fidget pants
are multiple sensors.
Let me just show you what they look like.
Every movement made by this little chip is gathered 20 times a second
and stored on a processor here.
So if you were to wear these for a whole day,
we could see everything you’re doing
– 20 times a second, night and day.
‘As I discovered in Glasgow,
‘being active switches on genes that control fat levels in the blood.
‘It also increases metabolic rate.’
This lovely young lady coming towards us
– is tripling her metabolic rate. Look at this chap…
No, this chap behind her doing his texting, right,
he’s walking about 1.3, 1.4 miles an hour,
he’s more than doubling his metabolic rate.
– What about just standing?
– Standing, you increase your metabolic rate
only about 10% above basal, it’s not a great burner.
But it’s not bad. And the concept, however,
is if you’re standing, you’re more likely to walk.
But walking, you see these gentlemen here,
you’ve one chap walking about 1.3, 1.4 miles an hour,
another guy walking a bit faster, about 2.1, 2.2 miles an hour,
doubling and tripling their metabolic rate, respectively.
So basically, if you’re going to walk, go at a respectable speed.
– No! Just walk.
– Walk, OK.
– Just walk!
Get up off your bottom and walk.
‘With the aid of these pants, I’m going to find out
‘how much, or how little, I move during the day.
‘I’m curious how I compare to others,
‘so I’ve recruited a couple of extra guinea pigs –
‘Stephanie Ware, a waitress here at Cafe Kick,
‘and Robert Kelsey, an author who writes about health.’
‘Out of the three of us,
‘I want to find out who burns the most calories.’
This one for you, Stephanie.
– Thank you.
– This one for you, Robert, and one for me.
I think it’s one size fits all.
– What do you think, then?
These are, well, I like to call them fidget pants.
So if you have a look at them.
You’re going to have to wear them for the next 24 hours
and they’re going to measure pretty well every movement you take.
And we’re going to then download that data
and see just how active you are during the day.
MUSIC: “Pump It” by The Black-Eyed Peas
– Pants active?
Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing you
in a few weeks when we have the results.
OK. Thank you. Bye-bye.
‘The question is, who moves the most?’
‘Although Stephanie does no official exercise, no planned activity,
‘she is on her feet all day,
‘suggesting that she may have a high NEAT.’
‘Robert has a sedentary job, but he goes to the gym most days,
‘and he notches up the recommended two-and-a-half hours a week.’
‘As for me, well, my normal routine is filled
‘with far more sitting down than I would have thought possible.’
I think it’s really quite extreme.
What they’re going to do is measure my VO2 max, my lung capacity…
‘Two weeks later and it’s time to meet James for the results,
‘standing up, of course. Each of us has a chart
‘that graphically reveals our daily activities.
‘First up, Stephanie.’
Look at this. It’s really, really cool, because look at her work day.
– You’re clicking!
You are on the move. What were you doing in the afternoon?
– Cos look at the difference.
– That’s morning, that’s frantic serving…
– It is literally frantic.
– I mean look at it,
It’s a block of continuous activity.
This is Robert, this is Robert.
The thing I saw as soon as I printed this out,
before I started fiddling around and looking, is that it’s sporadic.
Right? There’s a lot of time where you’re sitting down.
Then you rushed off somewhere and there was a lot of walking?
It’s actually a half-mile walk, but it’s a stealth walk.
– But you moved.
– You were moving. Looking at the gait,
cos we can actually see the patterns of the gait,
you were never actually in flight,
so your legs were never off the ground, but you were in a hurry.
– Yes, exactly.
Moving on to me…
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!
– Oh dear, oh dear!
– Thank you, that’s a good build-up.
If you looked at this and said that’s your day, what would you say?
I don’t know what I’d say. It’s…
– Go on.
– It ain’t very active.
I’ve looked at Stephanie’s great big blocks, and this isn’t very active.
To me, the first thing I see when I see this
is “move, stop, move, stop,”
but most of it’s “stop”.
But obviously, not a huge amount of activity.
The amount of activity you’re doing is relatively low.
And as you say, Stephanie is definitely gold medal
and we’re not giving out any other medals.
Do you think it is better to be relatively sedentary,
like Robert, and then go for big bursts at the gym,
or is better to be just moving all the time like Stephanie?
People who go to the gym will keep going cos they love it.
It’s cool, it’s what they love to do, but for most people, it’s irrelevant.
80% of the population don’t take regular exercise.
So what has to be relevant for most people
is how much they move throughout the day
because that’s how the human was designed.
Basically, it’s really simple.
You just keep off your bottom as much as possible.
– Feel the pulses. And when the urge moves you, move.
‘Well, that was sobering.
‘I was aware that I spent quite a lot of time sitting down,
‘but probably not that much.’
So what I’m going to do is
see if I can keep on my feet much more, follow Jim’s advice.
What I really want to see is how difficult is that,
and also how much difference will it make.
MUSIC: “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis and JXL
‘For the next 24 hours,
‘I make a concerted effort to keep active
‘without doing any formal exercise.’
‘It’s hard to avoid my desk completely,
‘but I avoid the lift, and generally take any opportunity to walk.’
Should I bang over an e-mail, then, or…?
– Here’s your day one.
This is Michael the slug.
Somehow, and perhaps you’re going to tell me how,
you literally have doubled your amount of NEAT.
I mean, we’re talking a calorie increase
of 500 extra calories a day
burnt through this increase.
Now how did you do it? Talk us through your day.
Essentially I was just up and more active,
I was walking up and down stairs.
How much sweat did you drip doing this?
So you burnt an extra 500 calories
and you didn’t drip an extra drop of sweat.
No. I have to say, by evening time, my feet were really hurting.
– Really? And what did you do about that?
– I changed my shoes.
– I’ve been wearing…
– Oh, yes, I see.
– Yes! They’re very comfy. Very, very comfy.
‘Keeping on the move isn’t just a good way of burning calories.
‘It also has a big impact on your physiology.’
Why is it so important to keep moving?
– There should never be an hour that you’re sitting down.
Because your body idles, the gunk builds up,
the blood sugar levels elevate, the blood fats elevate.
In order to keep the fuels moving through the system,
you need to be moving every hour.
You’re saying it’s not enough
to sit for 12 hours, go to the gym for an hour
– and hope that’ll do it for you.
– I’m telling you, Michael,
there are data coming out now
that suggests that people who are profoundly sedentary all day,
who indeed get to the gym in the evening,
unfortunately just aren’t doing enough.
It is that sedentariness that appears to be the killer, right?
Bound to the chair, chained to the chair,
it’s hurting our bodies, it’s literally killing millions.
Who’d have ever thought that the chair could kill?
‘So far, the truth about exercise seems to be
‘that if I can keep off my bum and on the move,
‘and combine that with three minutes of high-intensity training a week,
‘then I can happily forget the gym.’
What’s really surprising
is that these are only 20-second bursts,
but even so,
the last few seconds are really difficult.
I was just wondering why doing exercise is quite so hard.
What is it that really makes us slow down and stop?
Go! Go! Go!
To find out, I’ve come to Eastbourne,
to the University of Brighton, to meet Dr Emma Ross.
When you get fatigued, most people think
it’s their muscles getting tired and causing them to stop exercising,
but the research we do here is about how your brain
is exerting its influence on your exercise performance
and has a hand in slowing you down and causing you to stop exercise.
That’s what we’re testing.
OK, so what’s happening in there?
As you can see we’ve got a bike ready for you to do some cycling.
This is a hypoxic chamber, so the oxygen levels in here have been lowered.
So inside it’s 14% oxygen,
and the air we’re breathing now outside the chamber is 21%.
So what is the equivalent in height?
14% is around 3,000m.
So, Everest base camp is 5,000m so you’re well on your way up to Everest base camp.
Are you going to be joining me?
Baby’s going to get as much oxygen as he can, so we’re going to watch you.
Rosie and Jo will take care of you inside.
‘The reason they’ve got me cycling in this low-oxygen environment
‘is not only to get my muscles exhausted more quickly, but to get my brain worried
‘that something dangerous could be going on.
‘And that happens a lot sooner than I’d imagined.’
Keep that up, you’re doing really well.
‘After just a few minutes
‘the oxygen saturation in my blood is down to 82%,
‘I’m struggling for breath and my legs are screaming, “Stop!”
‘The chamber is taking its toll.’
Well done. Keep pushing, keep pushing! Keep pushing.
HE BREATHES HEAVILY
OK and we’ll stop there. That’s it, well done.
Take this off for you. Nice deep breaths for me. It’s coming over your head.
We’re going to move you onto the chair.
If you can manoeuvre yourself in here.
‘Once I can do no more, Rosie and Jo strap me into a chair,
‘place electrodes on my thigh and cuff my leg to a strain gauge to measure how hard I can kick.’
HE BREATHES HEAVILY
‘First, they measure how hard I think I can push my exhausted leg muscles.’
– Just as hard as you can.
– In three, two, one,
and contract, contract, push, push, push!
Keep pushing, keep pushing, hold it, hold it, hold it.
‘Although I think I’m pushing as hard as I can, my subconscious brain,
‘alarmed at the potential damage from this nasty exertion,
‘may be holding me back.
‘This is a transcranial probe that delivers a carefully targeted
‘magnetic pulse to the part of my brain that controls my leg.
‘While I push as hard as I can, Jo triggers the pulse
‘sending an additional signal to my leg.’
And in three, two, one, contract, contract, contract,
push, push, push, push, hold it, hold it, hold it.
‘And of course we have to do it twice.’
– Ready, Michael?
In three, two, one,
and contract, push, harder, push, push, push,
push, push, push.
– Good effort.
– Thank you, God, blimey!
OK, I hope it was worth it. What are the results then?
We were measuring a number of things in the chamber.
The first thing we measured when you were just contracting your leg was your absolute strength,
around 550 Newtons.
Push, push, push, keep pushing, keep pushing.
– With the transcranial stimulation…
– The buzz?
– Yeah, the zapping.
– On my brain.
we were measuring how well you were able to activate your muscle to its full capacity.
So, if when you’re doing a maximal contraction
you are activating your muscle fully, and we put in some extra stimulation, you would get no more force out.
But if we got more force out, we’d know you weren’t activating your muscle to its full capacity.
Push, harder, push, push, push, push, push.
When we stimulated during a contraction,
we actually got some extra force out of your muscle with that stimulation.
So you weren’t driving your muscle as fully as before the exercise.
So when I think that actually it’s my muscle screaming at me to stop
there’s some part of my brain doing that?
Yes, and your muscles are actually talking to your brain
and saying things are getting a bit dodgy and then your brain regulates the neural output to your muscles,
so you have to eventually stop.
‘The subconscious brain is protecting itself.
‘Alarmed at the danger signals brought on by bouts of unexpected exercise,
‘it triggers an automatic shut down.’
Your brain is a bit like a cautious parent
basically saying, “Don’t do that, it’s bad for you.”
And they’re kind of right, but they set the level a bit low.
– That’s right.
– But you’re capable of doing a bit more than you might think.
Yes, that safety margin is quite big in someone who is untrained,
and with training you can make that safety margin a bit smaller.
‘After just a few sessions of exercise,
‘your brain will learn that this strange new activity
‘is not life threatening, and it will wait longer before telling you to stop.’
‘Exercise will feel easier.’
‘One more week of HIT, egged on by my son,
‘and I’ll be heading back to Nottingham to see if it worked for me.’
– Five more seconds.
– You’re doing well. And you can stop.
‘And Jamie was right.
‘You CAN do it in a suit.’
No sweat marks. Clean.
No sweat marks or anything like that.
Goodbye, old friend, we’ve had some good times together.
In fact, over the last four weeks, a grand total of 12 minutes.
The question is, has it done any good? I’m about to find out.
‘I’m back in Nottingham with Professor Jamie Timmons, and about to discover what effect
‘four weeks of his HIT protocol have had on my health.
‘First, we’re going to find out if it’s improved my insulin function.’
OK, so I have your results here.
This is the blood glucose response to the oral glucose drink.
And this again is just to remind you that
while most people see an improvement, some people don’t,
and some people actually get a little bit worse.
So, the moment of truth.
In the blue is your response before the training,
and after 12 minutes of training over four weeks you can see
you’ve had about a 15% reduction
in the area under the curve for glucose.
– That’s quite impressive.
‘Even more impressive when combined with this data which shows the amount of insulin
‘I produced to shift that glucose.
‘I ended up with an overall improvement in insulin sensitivity
– This has only been a four-week intervention, so it’s quite short.
– I’m amazed to see anything.
– I am amazed to see anything.
I’m pleased and it makes me think I’ll continue.
‘A 23% improvement is remarkable,
‘but it’s in line with their clinical studies.
‘They think it’s the intensity that counts breaking down the stored glycogen in muscles
‘so much more effectively than moderate exercise like jogging.’
‘Next, my aerobic fitness.
‘In their studies, HIT delivered an average improvement of 10%.
‘But like all exercise, some people got a lot of benefit, others didn’t.’
Come on, keep your legs moving, keep it going!
‘It certainly seems easier and I’m feeling good
‘as I realise I’ve gone longer than I did last time.’
Come on, come on, Michael!
All the way, all the way! OK, fantastic.
There’s a towel there.
‘But did I increase my V02 max?’
It’s a measure of your heart and lungs, so we have a graph.
– I went longer.
– For sure.
– But not much higher.
– Not higher at all.
Your aerobic capacity just did not shift at all.
For this aerobic capacity measurement you’re a non-responder.
Right, blimey. And what would you have predicted?
Well, it’s funny you mention that.
We happen to have the results of the genetic test.
We predicted you as a non-responder.
Oh, God, how funny.
How tragic as well. How incredibly annoying.
OK, so as a scientist, you’re delighted,
as a human being, I’m profoundly disappointed.
Bloody hell! So, right. How interesting.
So you predicted, way back, without telling me,
that I wouldn’t actually improve with exercise and, bloody hell, I didn’t improve.
Oh, God, that’s annoying. OK.
I’m right down there, can you see that?
I’m right down there at the bloody bottom!
– You can’t get worse than that.
– You can’t, can you?
No, but it does say that some of the science
is adding up and we’re watching you and we can predict you.
With absolute precision. That’s quite scary!
– OK, so thanks, Dad, thanks, Mum.
They just bequeathed me some dodgy genes.
Well, for aerobic capacity, yeah, I’m afraid so.
So the down side for people like me, your gene test is telling me that I’m not going to improve,
but the up side is presumably you can tell some people
– that they’re going to get enormous benefit.
– That’s correct.
We can really pinpoint people who have a great response
for their aerobic fitness to exercise training,
and that can be a great motivational tool, for example.
‘HIT may be the new kid on the block, but it’s making waves.
‘Jamie has just begun a £5 million study to further explore its effects.’
The truth about exercise is that it should be tailored to individuals.
And the amount and type of exercise you do
doesn’t need to be two or three hours a week of endurance training.
There are many different types of exercise that will be effective.
However, there are some people in the population,
who will not respond very effectively to any of the types of exercise that we currently know about.
‘If you do long sessions in the gym, or jogging,
‘and that’s what you enjoy, then great.
‘But most of us don’t.
‘What I’ve seen is that there are other forms of exercise, like HIT, like improving your NEAT,
‘that could help a lot more people get those vital health benefits.’
And as for me, well, I may be a non-responder
when it comes to aerobic fitness, which is a bummer,
but my insulin sensitivity did improve, which is great
because I do not want to become a diabetic like my dad.
So I will continue with the HIT and I will keep on the move.
Because after all, the chair is a killer.
The chair is a killer.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd