Personalised exercise

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a very good programme on BBC Four called The Truth About Exercise presented by Michael Mosley.

Instinctively I guess I knew that different people responded differently to exercise but I hadn’t really looked at the science. One study mentioned in the programme found that in a sample of 1,000 people given the same WHO recommended exercise regime for 20 weeks, 15% had a dramatic improvement in their fitness but 20% showed no real improvement at all (so-called ‘non-responders’). It also seems that there are genetic markers that can predict where you will be on this distribution.

The programme then looked at some of the research that’s going on into High Intensity Training which sounds too good to be true and has led to a few somewhat dramatic headlines. The idea is that you can get many of the same fitness benefits of the WHO recommended regime based on just a few minutes per week of really pushing yourself in full body exercise. What was interesting was that Michael Mosley is in the ‘non-responder’ group but the High Intensity Training did still have a benefit to him — it improved his insulin sensitivity by 24% which in his case (with a history of diabetes in the family) was very important.

It brought me back to my hatred of gyms which was what got me interested in Good Gym in the first place and thinking about how we could radically improve the health of a large percentage of the population. Only about a third of the UK population meet the recommended levels of exercise for a healthy lifestyle and it’s costing the NHS billions of pounds and probably having all kinds of other effects on the economy and society as well.

I think there’s a huge need for tools that make preventative healthcare work. Unfortunately the NHS  (which is really a national ill health service) isn’t set up to build them so I think they’ll have to come from elsewhere. I’d like to see services that can offer advice and motivation to people about exercise on a personalised basis. They could involve some element of genetic propensity to benefit from different types of exercise as well as looking at other lifestyle issues such as your activity levels (the programme singled out sitting down at work as probably the UK’s biggest killer) and devise nutritional and exercise advice that takes into account budget and lifestyle.



 Some rights reserved by Josiah Mackenzie
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