Let’s get the bad news out of the way – the majority of us in England don’t do anywhere near the recommended amount of exercise needed to stave off diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, or to keep the weight off.
1 in 10 of us were revealed to not even have gone for a five-minute walk in the last month, and 90% admitted they hadn’t been to the gym.
If you’re wondering whether these are the results of a flimsy poll, they aren’t.
A new study by the University of Bristol revealed that millions of Brits are leading a couch potato lifestyle and it was one of the most comprehensive of physical fitness levels in England, reported The Daily Mail.
Despite being told repeatedly about the benefits of walking and the recommended amount of physical activity per month, the figures indicate that more than ever, we’re leading sedentary lifestyles. As well as the low walking figures, 88% had not been swimming and 20% of people who did exercise admitted that they had only done the bare minimum.
Researcher Carol Propper added: “The level of physical activity is shockingly low.”
What is the recommended amount of exercise?
At least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
What could be causing such a poor lifestyle trend? We asked a range of fitness and lifestyle experts for their take on it.
Alan Jackson, founder of the Weight Management Centre (WMC) an organisation dedicated to tackling the obesity epidemic in the UK, says that we have a problem managing busy schedules with leisure, and that technology has a big role to play.
“This intriguing idea suggests that the development of the labour-saving devices of the last 30 years (washing machines, dishwashers, personal transport etc.) would act to free us all up so that we could do lots of active pastimes and benefit by feeling happier and healthier as a result.
“However this proved not to be the case on two counts. First of all, it did free up time, however we used that time to engage with passive activities also driven by technology such as TV, computers and online activities.”
Story continues below the slideshow:
Myth: Sit Ups And Crunches Are Most Effective For Six-Pack Abs
Truth: Moves like planks and push ups are much more effective at carving out your ab muscles than sit ups and crunches. These exercises target your whole core and, when combined with cardio and a healthy diet, are the way to strengthen your abs. <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/mondays-with-marlo-get-great-abs-from-terri-walsh_n_1955635.html?1349897550″ target=”_blank”>Watch</a>
Myth: Cardio Burns The Most Calories
Truth: If you want to burn more fat overall — and keep burning it long after your workout is over — weight training is the way to go.
<a href=”http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/7-common-muscle-myths-busted” target=”_blank”>See more</a>
Myth: Stretching Is Best Before Working Out
Warming up with cardio before a workout is much more effective than stretching. It will get your blood flowing and warm up your muscles, preventing injury. Save the static stretching for after your workout. <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/stretching-before-or-after-workout-from-simone-de-la-rue-marlo-thomas-mondays-with-marlo_n_3186033.html?1367337884″ target=”_blank”>Watch</a>
Myth: Weight Lifting Will Bulk You Up
Truth: Women aren’t built to bulk up the same way men do; females don’t have the testosterone levels necessary. Choose heavy weights with less repetitions instead of light weights with higher reps.<a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/health/13muscles.html?_r=0″ target=”_blank”> See more</a>
Myth: You Need Eight Glasses Of Water Daily
Drink as much water as you need for clear urine. We get a great deal of water from food, and if you’re not thirsty, there’s no reason to force yourself to down another glass. <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/14/health-expert-dr-oz-talks_n_876620.html” target=”_blank”>Watch</a>
Myth: Go Gluten-Free To Lose Weight
Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, there’s no need to go gluten-free. In fact, many gluten-free items have twice the carbs and much more sugar and fat than the regular versions. <a href=”http://blogs.webmd.com/food-and-nutrition/2012/09/will-going-gluten-free-help-you-lose-weight.html” target=”_blank”>See more</a>
Myth: It’s Too Late To Get In Shape
Truth: It’s never too late to begin a healthier routine. If you don’t exercise at all, start by walking 5 to 10 minutes a day, gradually increasing the time and adding in strength training after 1 to 3 months. <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/12/marlo-thomas-mondays-with-marlo-the-first-step-in-starting-to-exercise-is-from-terri-walsh_n_1961230.html?1350051909″ target=”_blank”>Watch</a>
Myth: You Need A Long Workout
Truth: Your body starts burning fat as soon as you start exercising.If you can’t exercise for the 30 minutes a day recommended for adults, a shorter, intense workout is better than no workout. <a href=”http://health.ninemsn.com/whatsgoodforyou/theshow/694570/how-much-exercise-do-you-need-before-you-start-burning-fat” target=”_blank”>See more </a>
Myth: You Need A Gym Membership To Get Results
Truth: You don’t need a gym membership or major equipment to work out. A yoga mat, resistance band or even a chair are all you need to get a full-body workout at home. <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/26/home-workout-from-simone-de-la-rue-marlo-thomas-mondays-with-marlo_n_3165460.html?1367246487″ target=”_blank”>Watch</a>
Myth: If You’re Not In Pain, You’re Not Working Hard Enough
Truth: While muscle soreness is to be expected during a workout, especially if you’re trying a new exercise or lifting a heavier weight, but if you’re in serious pain, stop what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean you’re working harder — it means you’re probably injuring yourself. <a href=”http://lifehacker.com/5895140/10-stubborn-exercise-myths-that-wont-die-debunked-by-science” target=”_blank”>See more</a>
Myth: You Can Spot Reduce Fat
Truth: The areas your body stores fat in are genetic. In order to lose weight in one area, you have to lose weight all over. Calories in vs. calories out, in combination with exercise and strength training, are the only ways to “spot reduce” fat. <a href=”http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/04/targeted-fat-loss-myth-or-reality/” target=”_blank”>See more</a>
Myth: More Exercise Is Always Better
Truth: Intense exercising every single day will burn you out, making you less likely to maintain a routine. Your muscles need time to recover. You also might not be keeping your form as well during frequent, extra-long workouts. Focusing on a few days of quality exercise a week instead of 7 days of mediocre effort will earn you better results. <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/staying-motivated-to-exercise-from-joy-bauer-marlo-thomas-mondays-with-marlo_n_2272893.html?1355175046″ target=”_blank”>Watch</a>
However Sam Feltham, fitness expert and HuffPost UK blogger said the results weren’t surprising because there is a big gulf between the have and have not’s in today’s society, and not everyone is clued up on nutrition in Britain.
“Obese people start to become obese first and sedentary behaviour follows, instead of people being sedentary first and then becoming obese because of that. The bottom line is we become obese because of over-consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates rather than eating too much in general and exercising too little, and unfortunately those most likely to have a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates are those of a low level of socioeconomic status.”
Alan adds that this gulf has led to polar opposites in Britain with regards to exercise, and that it’s not just poorer families who aren’t being active. “There is now a clear polarisation of time availability with those with the highest income (who are more likely to exercise) having the least time and feeling constantly time pressurised and those without work having lots of time, but little money to engage in some healthy pastimes as cost can be prohibitive (using the gym or health club, golf, taking the kids to sports clubs).
“Therefore the net effect is less physical activity in both groups.”
International athlete and fitness expert Ross Edgley said he was surprised by the figures, revealing that it didn’t know it was that bad.
But he feels that the government needs to do more to help people from lower income families, and that we need more understanding on how our reliance on technology is impacting our lives and making us lazier.
“To be slightly controversial… I don’t think the commercialisation of the health and fitness industry has helped. Back in the 1980’s Margaret Thatcher introduced something called Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) to outsource the public sector.
“This gave birth to commercial gym chains which in turn saw personal trainers, fitness publications, supplement companies and health companies of every kind ‘pop-up’ since they saw there was money to be made from people wanting to get fit.”
The bottom line, is that even if you aren’t obese, we need a radical shift in how we view keeping healthy.
“The big questions are,” says Alan, “why do we dislike exercise so much, and why do we place so little value on it? There is now incontrovertible evidence to show that next to smoking, being sedentary is the most dangerous thing you can do with relation to chronic ‘lifestyle’ diseases such diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
“If we were going on holiday to a tropical country we have no problem taking our anti-malarial medication. However, exercise is the most powerful prophylactic against non-contagious diseases, yet we choose to not take it, despite vascular disease being the biggest killer in the developed world.”
But the solution, says Sam, isn’t to focus on free gym memberships but to tackle the root of the problem: food. “Exercising for a lot of obese people is like torture, so we need to help people get back in touch with real food and get rid of sugar and refined carbohydrates.
“Once we move away from these fake foods we will lose the weight and want to become more active naturally. As a fitness expert I’m certainly not saying that exercise is not good for us but it is not the solution to our obesity epidemic, we can’t out-train these metabolically damaging foods however hard we try.”
Alan believes that we need to look at a long-term strategy however, and that begins in school.
“The most obvious and practical thing that can be done immediately would be to introduce at least one hour each day of high quality physical activity in every school as mandatory. The sooner we move away from the obsessive addiction to the three R’s and provide a more holistic approach to educating our children the better.
“The evidence clearly shows that if you don’t’ exercise as a child, you don’t adopt it in later life. From this we can deduce that being sedentary is a learned behaviour; and a very dangerous one at that!”