Every year since it began, thousands of overweight and obese Aussies are inspired by TV’s ‘The Biggest Loser’ to get up off the couch and get moving – and every year some of these people are injured trying to adopt the show’s rigorous diet and exercise formula.
The Biggest Loser has once again taken Australia by storm with over 753,000 viewers settling in to watch the first night of the gruelling weight-loss journey for the 11,000 people who inhabit one of Australia’s most obese towns, Ararat, Victoria. The town, where 68 per cent of the adult population are overweight or obese, will certainly test The Biggest Loser formula – and while health experts, hope the show’s ninth season will inspire viewers to start their own fitness and weight loss programs, some have expressed their concerns about the show’s irresponsible approach to weight loss.
Exercise & Sport Science Australia (ESSA) is the country’s peak professional body for exercise and sports science. ESSA Executive Officer, Anita Hobson-Powell, says while contestants on ‘The Biggest Loser’ have access to a professional team of experts to guide them through their exercise program, the risk is that those trying to achieve the same results at home are susceptible to injury and over-exertion.
“There’s more to the weight-loss journey than what you see on TV and going headfirst into an intense exercise routine can be detrimental to your health, even dangerous,” said Ms Hobson-Powell.
“We would always recommend a gradual increase in activity particularly if one is going from a very sedentary lifestyle to incorporating high levels of physical activity. The show doesn’t necessarily reflect the assessment that individuals would undergo to review their health history and to ensure they are physically able to cope with the stringent exercise regime they undertake.”
To avoid injury and overexertion ESSA recommends the following tips to get you started on your weight loss journey:
What are your goals and are they reasonable?
Setting and achieving smaller goals along the way serves as motivation to continue along the weight-loss journey. Monitor yourself and set rewards at interim milestones – anything other than food!
Determine how many hours a week you are prepared to commit to exercising and lock them in
Make them non-negotiable and where possible find someone to join you at those times to help you stay committed. ESSA’s recommendation is two-and-a-half hours per week.
Find the exercise that works for you
The “bootcamp” approach used on The Biggest Loser does not work for everyone – yelling and abuse is not necessarily a long-term solution and can put many off exercising in the first place. If you enjoy the exercise you do and incorporate some variety, you’re more likely to keep doing it.
Just because it doesn’t hurt, doesn’t mean it’s not working
There are many low-impact exercises that strengthen your muscles and improve fitness such as yoga, pilates and Tai Chi. – explore your options and make the decision that’s right for you.
Give your body time to recover
While it’s tempting to overdo it in the first few days when you’re the most motivated, ensure you give your body the time it needs to recover so you don’t fail to meet your goals early on.
Do you have a medical history or aches and pains that should be considered before you start exercising?
Remember, prevention is much easier than dealing with injuries once they occur.
If you need help, you may be able to access the help of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist through Medicare with a referral from your GP. People who suffer from a chronic disease or condition may be eligible to access four visits a year with an accredited exercise physiologist through Medicare. To find the nearest accredited exercise physiologist visit www.essa.org.au.