London - Have you seen Kylie Minogue’s video/single, Sexercise? It is one of the most unintentionally comical things I have seen in a long while.
It’s all rather steamy, but in the most absurdly contrived way imaginable. I mean, honestly: who works out in 8 inch Louboutins?
And balance balls have many uses, but I’ve never seen them as sex aids.
The title probably tells you all you need to know. It’s about sex as exercise, you see. Or perhaps it’s the other way round. Either way, there’s a lot of pert bottoms.
The director, Will Davidson, has expressed his intention to “take the viewer on a voyeuristic journey” that he hopes “will no doubt see gym memberships soar”.
Really? If there’s one thing guaranteed to make me never set foot in a gym ever again it’s the prospect of being surrounded by nubile Kylies writhing around on yoga mats.
But the good news is that for, shall we say, rather exercise-averse ladies like me, it’s perfectly possible to get fit without going anywhere near a gym. You just need to get into high intensity interval training.
No more slogging it out for endless boring hours on the treadmill. High intensity interval training (aka HIIT) is the modern way to keep fit, a flexible, versatile method of exercise that needn’t cost a penny and that pretty much anyone can do.
And it’s got even me, lazy-pants extraordinaire, hooked.
Essentially, it’s all about short, sharp bursts of intense exercise, alternated with rest (I do so love a rest, don’t you?). It’s ideal for the time-pressed — or for those who are easily bored by physical jerks.
Best of all, you can do it anywhere: in the park, your garden, you can even incorporate it into your daily commute — for example, running hell for leather up the stairs at work a few times a day or getting off the bus a couple of stops earlier and walking as fast as you can.
Cycling, running, skipping, swimming — all can be adapted to HIIT, and it doesn’t require any equipment. The key thing is to push yourself to the absolute limit, for short bursts of time, then have a nice long sitdown.
The roots of this approach lie with Dr Izumi Tabata, whose work with the Japanese Olympic speed-skating team in the Nineties led him to conclude that short bursts of very high intensity activity produced better results than long hours of more moderate training. But it wasn’t until relatively recently that these principles began to catch on.
So, why am I recommending it so heartily for sloths like me? Well, I’m rather unnerved by the sudden approach of springtime and the dreaded day when I have to ditch the tights and show my bare legs. And HIIT works fast, fast enough to assassinate any winter chub.
Studies have shown that 30-second bike sprints for a total of three minutes led to the same changes in muscle cells as two hours of long, steady bike riding.
Essentially, it’s about taking the body by surprise. The human body is annoyingly adaptable, constantly re-calibrating itself depending on your level of activity and eking out energy levels to meet demand.
But if you really want to burn fat, you need to run your metabolism ragged by constantly shifting the goal posts. That way it will use up more energy responding to demand — rather like over-revving an engine.
Not all experts concur on how long the energy bursts should be. Professor Jamie Timmons at Loughborough University, for example, advocates a three-minute approach, 20 seconds flat-out of, say, sprinting, followed by a two-minute recovery of walking, repeated three times.
At the start I used to run up and down the stairs at home, but I had to stop when the dog started chasing after me. Now I find a park bench does the trick for step-ups and tricep dips.
I’m also told that star jumps are brilliant — though after two children they’re slightly off the agenda. I’ve also taken to skipping with a rope, really fast. It might sound rather simple and a bit silly. But it’s really not.
The researchers at Loughborough found that HIIT improves insulin sensitivity, important for stabilising blood sugar. In this respect it’s ideal for us middle-aged fatties, as it helps kick-start the metabolism.
That said, do check with your doctor before you embark on HIIT, and I’d suggest starting off in the care of a qualified personal trainer who can make sure you don’t end up in A&E. When I first did it, I got carried away and pulled a muscle.
The person who taught me was Steve Mellor of Freedom2Train (freedom2train.com) and he has some excellent (and free) online tips at getthegloss.com.
Michael Mosley, the man who got everyone hooked on the 5:2 diet, recently published a book about HIIT called Fast Fitness. There’s even an App called Seven (iTunes) that puts you through your paces with a chair and your own body weight — and not a Kylie in sight. - Daily Mail