Home » Webchats

Fast Exercise with Michael Mosley

Fast ExerciseExercise is good for just about everything – you stay fitter, younger and stronger. But how should you exercise? And how much?

Science journalist, television presenter and author of bestselling book The Fast Diet, Doctor Michael Mosley dropped in to Gransnet to answer your questions on Fast Exercise - i.e. how a short burst of high intensity training (HIT) can help you get fitter, stronger and more toned in just a few minutes a day.

Mosley, a reluctant exerciser, together with super-fit health journalist Peta Bee, has drawn on cutting edge research to show why high intensity training can be more effective than much longer periods of low-impact exercise. 

Q: Is there a risk of stroke with bursts of high intensity exercise? I am thinking Andrew Marr. jinglebellsfrocks
A: Andy Marr was under a lot of stress. He had had two previous, silent strokes. The main causes of stroke are smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight, and lack of exercise. Once you have had a stroke that has weakened your blood vessels, then simply turning your neck or sneezing can trigger another one, so exercise, intense or otherwise, is the best way of preventing a stroke in the first place. The exercises in Fast Exercise have been tested in the lab to ensure they are safe for people who are older (i.e. 60 plus), overweight, and/or diabetic. DO NOT DO A DIY VERSION!
Q: I am looking forward to getting started. In the meantime I want to make sure I am doing the diet bit right. Are you meant to fast for two DAYS? Or two 24 hour periods? I have found it easier to fast from lunchtime to lunchtime as by having the meal before 1pm on the first day and after 1pm on the second it's easier to do the 24 hours when you just have to split the calories between dinner and breakfast. But a friend told me this was all wrong and I would lose weight faster if I did from after dinner one night (say Monday night) until breakfast two days later (say Weds so therefore fasting on Tues) - making it a total of about 36 hours. Does this really make a difference? weevil
A: I think you have to find a form that works for you. We are all genetically and emotionally different, so what works for a friend may not work for you. The fastest way to lose weight would be to do 4:3 ie cut your calories to 500 cals 3 days a week. Takes a couple of weeks to adapt.
Q: Anywho, talking about sweat (as we were) anything us mid-lifers should take into consideration when considering HIT? I can 'glow' for Team GB putting on the dark wash. Worried I may spontaneously combust if strenuously exercising too! LisaStAlbans
A: The workouts are really short so you don't have time to sweat. I never bother to get into gym kit. I have done our workouts in a suit. Your heart rate goes up, but your temperature doesn't.
Q: Reading all the comments makes me realise I must be quite fit! Aged 65, not on any medication, last year I got my weight down to the right weight range for my height using the 5:2 diet. Bunion on my right foot a bit sore sometimes but that's the only problem. Have bags of energy. However - the problem - how do I reduce my waist? I read somewhere recently that sit-ups are a waste of time. Any suggestions for reducing my waist? I don't go to the gym (and don't intend to) and I don't have any equipment at home. The plank is supposed to strengthen the core muscles and when I remember I try to hold in my tummy muscles when I'm out and about. Grandmama
A: The advantage of HIT (high intensity training) is it leads to the production of hormones called catecholamines (adrenaline and nor adrenaline) that target the fat cells in your tummy. So you lose weight round your tummy even if you are not exercising that area- for example, if you cycle. In Fast Exercise we have a range of exercises you can do in less than seven minutes but which will reduce belly fat.
Q: Is it safe for people with heart problems like cardiomyopathy ie. hocm (on medication for high blood pressure and betablockers to slow the heart)? I started the fast diet months ago and it works - I have lost over two stones and find it fairly easy to keep it off but I dislike exercise and would love to try this but am very wary of 'sudden death' syndrome. dhanagran
A: Congratulations on the weight loss... If you have anxieties then check with your doctor, but the exercises in Fast Exercise have been tested on people who are overweight, unfit or diabetic. They have also been tested on people with history of heart disease and stroke. Start with Fast Walking, put in some stairs, do Fast Strength. Probably avoid weight training as heaving weights puts up blood pressure.
Q: I believe you are an advocate of the 5:2 diet. Do you think this is safe for older people? jinglebellrocks
Other things you might like...
A: Yes, I came up with the expression "5:2" (my book is The Fast Diet) and I popularised the approach, based on studies done by scientists in the UK and US that I interviewed for the BBC science series, Horizon. The diet is safe for older people but oddly enough, after the age of around 70, being slightly overweight is no longer dangerous and can be protective, so it depends on how much you want to lose. I wrote The Fast Diet because I was worried about becoming diabetic. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce the risk of this and may reduce your risk of dementia (it does in rats; human trials underway).
Q: Mobility impaired by arthritic hip and aftermath of broken foot - how to exercise? Mishap
A: That is tough. I recommend walking as much as you are able and doing upper body strength exercises. Yoga is also good if you can manage it.
Q: Difficult to ask questions without buying the book and seeing what the exercises are. However, as I tend to hang on Mr Mosley's every word (haven't tried the 5:2 diet yet but planning to) I'll try to get hold of it and pass on what it says. Tegan
A: Do. You can pick up Fast Exercise online or at a supermarket for around £3, the cost of a sandwich or large coffee. I can promise the effects are more beneficial and last longer!
Q: I saw some crazy person one on a TV programme last year doing this fast exercise and looking like death in the process - I think it was probably you? Now, I do believe in the benefits of the 5:2 diet, but to exercise like this seems somewhat odd, nay dangerous and I don't think I will be taking it up any time soon. I shall just plod on with walking, cycling, gardening and maybe a little gentle zumbaing, unless you can persuade me otherwise! Gally
A: The latest version is more sedate. Walking is great, but if you actually want to burn fat and get improvements in your glucose metabolism (how well your body deals with sugar) you need to add a little bit of intensity. Not extreme, get the heart rate up a bit. I have spent two years researching this book and I hope you will find the science as fascinating as I do. Gives you something to tell kids/grandkids!
Q: Energetic activity makes one hungry. It's not a good way to lose weight. Steady, regular, gentle exercise is better, and eating less. This is just another quick fix idea that will fix nothing, like all its predecessors. thatbags
A: Actually that is a complete myth. All the studies show that Fast Exercise reduces appetite, not just straight after but for 24 hours. Moderate exercise makes people hungrier, which is why people who do moderate exercise like jogging almost never lose weight (they eat more). Walking doesn't trigger appetite but unless you add a bit of intensity you won't burn fat. The book has loads of references to scientific trials that justify these claims. It is also endorsed by three of the world's leading exercise experts. Another myth is "Starvation Mode", the claim that if you skip meals your body will hold onto fat. Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase the metabolic rate.
Q: Wondering what's next in your quest to find the holy grail in optimising our health and fitness? If I were you I would looking at popularising veganism/vegetarianism, since a plant-based diet is increasingly being advocated as the most healthy. Or don't you agree? zorione
A: You have read my mind. I have just finished a two part series on meat for Horizon that goes out in the spring and looks at exactly this question.
Q: I have dodgy knees and can't do anything that involves "jumping" of any sort. Like the idea of short bursts but I'm not sure what's available for me to do. Hooligran
FitnessA: I also have a dodgy knee. I get my HIT by non-weight bearing exercises like swimming and cycling. I do strength exercises (10 in seven minutes) that are not dependent on jumping. The point I make in the book is that scientists who study exercise are keen to develop new ways that actually work. The standard advice needs updating. There is a huge gap between what scientists in the lab know, what doctors know, and what the general public knows.
Q: Remember reading a piece by Andrew Marr which told how he had tried intensive bursts of exercise on his rowing machine...then he had a serious stroke. Bit off-putting that. Purpledaffodil
A: Very off-putting. But he had been under a lot of stress and had had two previous strokes. His case is tragic but not typical.
Q: I'm sceptical about this, as I am about the 5:2. Losing weight, keeping it off and becoming and staying fit is not rocket science. It does not require the input of a celebrity doctor or a fitness guru. It does, however, require focus, motivation and discipline. Many of us do not have these qualities in large amounts, however. If you want to do it, you will, regardless of faddy regimes. gettingonabit
A: The reason why scientists spend so much time and money researching new approaches is because so many people find standard advice hard to follow. It is like saying, "the way you play golf is hit the ball straight into the hole". Easy to say, for most people impossible to do. People do not want to be fat.
Q: Hello Michael, I'm afraid it's another Fast Diet question. I find even if I eat fruit, veg and yoghurt etc all day long I still feel hungry and only carbs satisfy me. How can I make that work on a fast day? norahbatty
A: Try eating protein instead, for example: fish, meat, nuts.
Nothing is going to work for everyone but at a bare minimum I think it is useful to understand what exercise does, and why it is so beneficial. I have spent two years researching this book with the help of some of the world's leading experts. I hope it will help add to people's long term health. In the UK we live as long as others in Europe but spend longer than most in a state of ill health. It can be prevented by lifestyle changes, at whatever age. 
Fast Exercise: The Simple Secret of High Intensity Training by Dr Michael Mosley and Peta Bee is available online and from all good booksellers.

Image: Shutterstock

I wouldn't expect time off work - pet bereavement

Mother staring back at me - realise you're getting older

Names I've not heard - don't know 90% of celebs