Easy exercise for men to get fit and slim down

When I polled the views of thousands of overweight and obese men around the world in The Big Fat Survey, the most commonly cited reason for gaining weight was too little exercise. Clearly this is a big issue that needs solving.

In the UK, the guidelines are that you should do 150 minutes of moderate exercise (defined as exercise that noticeably raises the heart rate) every week, in blocks of more than 10 minutes. One way of looking at it is to say that this is five blocks of 30 minutes. In the Health Survey for England, only 67 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women were meeting these levels. In our survey, 52 per cent of men reported getting two hours or less of exercise per week.

From a biological point of view, inactivity is bad because you are missing the opportunity to burn up calories, which means you put on weight. A lack of exercise also means that your metabolism slows down and you will find it harder to burn through the calories you consume. On top of that, inactivity is a killer – increasing your risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, depression, stress and dementia.

Bodyweight strength fitness plan

A perfect challenge if you want to build strength away from a gym.

For this, all you need is a bit of floor space and a wall. You are going to be looking at three key exercises. These can be built upon as you gain strength through the movements and lose weight.

The exercises are: the push-up, the squat and the bridge. Over the next 30 days, we are going to work these three exercises in a structured system following a weekly template of the number of times you complete each exercise (these are called repetitions, or reps) and the number of times you complete these reps (these are called sets).

Each week, you will complete the following number of reps and sets of the three exercises for six days, then rest on day seven. For each of these, take one minute’s rest between sets.

● Week 1 – 3 reps x 5 sets

● Week 2 – 4 reps x 4 sets

● Week 3 – 5 reps x 4 sets

● Week 4 – 8 reps x 3 sets

For example, a set in week 1 would consist of three push-ups, three squats and three bridges, followed by a one-minute rest, while a set in week 4 would consist of eight push-ups, eight squats and eight bridges.

Strength: The exercises

The push-up
1. Stand facing a wall, with the palms of your hands on the wall at your shoulder height and width.
2. Slowly lower your forehead to the wall, pause for a second, then push back through your arms to the start position. Remember to keep your stomach tight and try to lock your body, so that it is like a plank of wood with just your arms performing the movement.
Make it tougher: move your feet farther away from the wall. If this is still too easy, do your push-up on the floor, either with knees dropped to the floor or in a classic push-up pose.

The squat

1. Stand upright with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, your arms crossed across your chest and with your toes pointing forward.
2. Looking up at the ceiling and pushing your chest forward as you move, slowly bend your knees and push your bum backwards, as if you’re sitting down on an imaginary chair. Go as low as you feel comfortable with at first, and try not to bend forward as you go. Pause for a second and then push through your heels to return to the starting position.
Make it tougher: bend your knees more with each squat to increase the depth of the movement.

The bridge

1. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat and as close to your bum as you can get them. Place your hands on the floor by your sides, palms facing down, and tuck your chin forward into your chest. This is your start position.
2. From this position, push through your heels and hands and try to lift your bum off the ground. If you can, pause for a second before lowering slowly back down. If you can’t, then just hold the tension through your body for a second before lowering yourself back into the starting position.
Make it tougher: place your hands on the opposite shoulders (by crossing your arms) and push up through the heels only.

Weight-training fitness plan
If you’re interested in getting into weight training, this plan will give you an introduction to some of the key exercises and start to build your strength. It’s advisable to follow the bodyweight strength fitness plan before progressing to the weight-training sets here. However, it is not essential to do so.

Equipment required: two dumbbells or kettlebells of equal weight. Don’t go too heavy on these, as we’re looking at perfecting the technique and getting you used to the lifting process. For these initial sets of exercises, these should be no heavier than 5kg (11lb) per weight. Eventually, you need to be lifting a lot heavier to build your strength, but for now let’s get the movements done properly.

The exercises are: the shoulder press, the bent-over row and the deadlift.

As with the bodyweight strength fitness plan, we are going to break these workouts into weekly sets, working for six days and resting on the seventh. Likewise, once again we are going to structure the reps and sets as with the bodyweight plan. We will be working towards three sets of eight repetitions. Once you have mastered the exercise form and can complete this number of movements with ease, increase the weight and work your way back up to three sets of eight repetitions. For each, take one minute’s rest between sets.

So the structure of the plan is going to look like this:

● Week 1 – 3 reps x 5 sets

● Week 2 – 4 reps x 4 sets

● Week 3 – 5 reps x 4 sets

● Week 4 – 8 reps x 3 sets