Is the 5:2 exercise trend a safe way to get fit?

Hannah Gilroy, DW Fitness

Hannah Gilroy, DW Fitness

Let’s face it, leading a healthy lifestyle can be boring. Wouldn’t it be good if there was some way that you could cheat your way to being fit and healthy, or you could only exercise and eat healthily a few days of the week and still lose weight? There’s a new exercise trend that could tick the right boxes.

The 5:2 way of life includes behaving as you normally would for five days a week, then committing to a healthy routine for the other two. So far this formula has been applied to diet and exercise, created as a means to combat people’s busy lives and hectic schedules. It’s much easier to commit to something for two out of seven days, even if those two days are a lot more challenging, than it is to adopt a whole new healthy lifestyle.

How does the 5:2 diet work?

5:2 dieters consume a regular amount of calories for five days a week and then simply reduce their intake to only 500 calories for two days of the week. It was designed to not only reduce your weekly calorie consumption by around 1,000 calories, but to also fire up your metabolism and help you burn more fat. When you don’t eat enough calories, your body burns off its fat reserves, after using all of the glycogen stores in your liver.

Fasters are encouraged to use up all of their calories across two meals a day, rather than spreading them out evenly throughout the day. By eating a small meal of around 250 calories in the morning and drinking nothing but water until your evening 250-calorie meal, your body will be forced to use up its fat stores.

Opting for a 5:2 style diet allows you to have more freedom with your food, you can enjoy your favourite foods (within reason) almost every day of the week with minimal restriction. It’s a blissfully simple diet and the fact that you only have to restrict yourself for two days a week is more than enough to convince many people to adopt a fasting way of life. However, beware of the side effects of fasting, if you aren’t a fan or concentration issues, bad breath and irritability, you might want to avoid this diet. It’s drawn criticism from nutritionists and health experts, many of whom have suggested that this is an unhealthy way to lose weight.

Exercise for two days, rest for five

On the flipside, the 5:2 exercise trend consists of not doing any exercise for five days a week, then making up for it with gruelling exercise sessions during other two days. You can read about the regime in more detail here.

This trend has emerged largely because people are too busy, or simply too tired, to exercise during the week, and they would rather hit the gym for a mammoth session when they have more energy on their days off. It also appeals to people who work away from home and travel to a different part of the country on a Monday and don’t return until a Friday.

Fans of the 5:2 exercise regime tend to work out for three or four hours at a time, switching between various types of exercise. For example, you could start your session off with an hour-long run, move on to a zumba class, follow this with weights and then finish with some yoga. This allows you to get a full-body workout and burn a serious amount of calories in a short space of time.

As you can imagine, being inactive for five days then suddenly engaging in rigorous physical activity can come with serious consequences, such as muscle cramps, pain and exhaustion. Take things carefully if this is the route you are thinking of going down.

By Hannah Gilroy, DW Fitness

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