BY THIS this time of the year, an estimated 80 per cent of the New Year’s resolutions we made in a fog of seasonal over-indulgence will have failed. In fact, it seems that we Brits waste £600 million every year on gym memberships that we never use.
In The Truth About Getting Fit (BBC1, Wednesday of last week), the popular TV doctor and medical journalist Dr Michael Mosley sets out to investigate the latest scientific thinking about keeping fit. He takes as a starting-point the fact that a shocking 20 million of Brits are inactive. Obesity and all the attendant health risks are rising exponentially.
Even though we know this, we struggle with our motivation to keep fit. Dr Mosley himself confesses that he wants the maximum gain for minimum pain. Luckily, he is prepared to find out what that means in practice, backed up by plenty of easily digestible science.
He started with fitness trackers, designed to help us achieve the holy grail of 10,000 daily steps and used by 13 million of us. Tied by sedentary jobs, many people struggle to meet this goal. But guess what? It turns out that 10,000 steps is a pretty random number, and that there is almost certainly more benefit in three brisk ten-minute walks every day.
In fact, there is evidence that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a far more efficient means of getting fit. And, if you do not happen to have your own high-tech static cycle, you can achieve this in intense bouts of jumps and squats and static sprints at home. Just five minutes, three times a week, can make all the difference.
Along the way, he discovers that running (which he dislikes) is not nearly as bad for the knees as is popularly thought, and, thanks to endocannabinoids, produces a measurable feel-good factor that is nothing less than a milder version of the effects of smoking a joint; and that dancing is the optimal form of exercise — it keeps us fit, makes us happy, and even improves cognitive function.
About five years ago, Dr Mosley was credited with transforming the waistlines of middle-class Britain through popularising the 5:2 diet, based on intermittent fasting (TV, 17 August 2012). Whether he can do the same for HIIT remains to be seen. But the success of his programmes lies in his undoubted personal charm, and his willingness to be our guinea pig. If he can do it, we can, too.
Requiem, a six-part drama on BBC1 (Fridays), is an altogether bleaker watch. The story centres on a young cellist, Matilda, who is about to relocate to New York when her mother dies, horribly, in front of her eyes; a few days later, she discovers a shoebox stuffed with newspaper cuttings and a VHS tape, telling the long-ago story of a missing child. She and her accompanist set off for Wales in an attempt to discover more.
It is all very creepy: flashbacks, nightmares, music that plays without being switched on, a mouldering Welsh mansion, and lots of grainy, grey shots designed to maximise the chill factor. And that’s just episode one.