We are constantly bombarded by images of beautiful bodies and exhortations to sign up to the latest exercise fad. But what does it mean to be fit? And how much exercise do we really need to do?
Looks can be deceiving
Richard Hammond, the presenter of Should I Worry About...?, assesses his body and fitness. He compares himself to a muscular male model, who exercises in a gym about six hours a week. Richard and the model undergo a series of fitness checks.
Richard learns that the ratio of his waist measurement to his hip measurement is one indicator of whether he's potentially at risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
While Richard may not be quite as 'ripped' as the male model, his results aren't too shabby. His waist-to-hip ratio indicates he is at a lower risk for some diseases. And his other fitness results aren't bad either, particularly considering he doesn't do much formal exercise
It turns out that looks aren't always the best indicator of fitness.
Calculate your waist-to-hip ratio
How much is enough?
Richard is stunned to learn that in the UK, we waste £200 million a year on unused gym memberships, but also admits he hates working out. He asks how much exercise we really need to do to keep healthy.
Richard meets Dr John Buckley of Keele University, who tests what is possibly the laziest group in Britain – students. Many of them confess to never doing any exercise.
Over a four-week period, he asks his students to walk 10,000 steps (about four miles) a day to see if even a small amount of exercise can improve their health.
The results of the experiment show that the endurance fitness of the students improved. The strain on their hearts and lungs during moderate to vigorous exercise reduced by 3% in a month. The students said they felt fitter and found it easier to walk on a treadmill after four weeks of daily walking.
Over a lifetime all those extra steps could mean a significant improvement in overall health, reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease and stroke.
Richard discovers that in the 1950s, people were more likely to make exercise part of their daily routines, walking further than we do today. And they didn't have piles of exercise gear.
He decides he's going to follow the lead of the older generation and get walking. Richard says that instead of wasting money supporting a billion-pound fitness industry, he's going to make exercise part of his daily routine.
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