Introducing Fast Exercise

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  • Hi all,

    Apologies for being rather quiet recently, I have been incredibly busy making a couple of new series for the BBC and writing a book called Fast Exercise with Peta Bee, a health and sports journalist (you may have seen her column in the Times or Daily Mail).



    Fast Exercise is exactly what it sounds like: a fast and enjoyable way to get the benefits of exercise without the normal long, dull slog. This approach to exercise, based on decades of research, is very different to the approach that is generally advocated – when it comes to getting health benefits slow and steady doesn’t win the race. Contrary to the traditional fable, the hare during fast exercise triumph over the tortoise plodding away on the treadmill.

    If any of you saw a Horizon I made a couple of years ago, “The Truth About Exercise”, then you will recognize that this is a book inspired by making that programme. In the programme I tested the claim, made by Professor Jamie Timmons of Loughborough University, that you can get many of the benefits of exercise from just 3 minutes of High Intensity Training (HIT) a week. The results were startling.

    Since then the research on the benefits of HIT have continued to pile up and sports scientists have created new versions that can safely be used by people who are older and less fit.

    Like the Fast Diet, Fast Exercise is a book that is based not only on scientific studies from around the world but also on personal experience; mine and Peta’s. I am something of a sloth, someone who does not enjoy exercise, while Peta has been an avid runner since she was a teenager and runs Marathons for fun. As we discovered in the course of researching the book there seem to be good genetic reasons why we approach exercise with these very different perspectives.

    You can buy the book here, or visit my other website,

    “A nice narrative introduction to HIT… excellent practical advice on how get started with ‘Fast Exercise’ and some really nice tips on how to keep going… informative, easy to understand…Fast Exercise is the way of the future.”

    Professor Stuart M. Phillips Ph.D., FACSM, FACN Department of Kinesiology, Exercise Metabolism Research Group
    McMaster University, CANADA

    “I recommend Fast Exercise because it is an up-to-date account of the latest science and shows just how easily an exercise regime can fit into a daily routine. Following their advice should help reduce your risk of various chronic diseases and you may even find yourself enjoying a workout for the first time!”

    Professor Jamie Timmons Ph.D, Professor Of Systems Biology, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Science, Loughborough University, UK


    Michael, I’ve seen the Horizon program twice and while I have no doubts that your research has been well tested, as someone who spends about 90 minutes 5 to 6 times a week on aerobic exercise there’s a part of my brain that just can’t accept that I can replace that with 3 minutes of HIT a week! Does it work for losing weight or only to improve fitness?

    Hi sassafras, I agree with your comments. In addition, as a 65 yr old man who works out from time to time would this type of exercise be to much of a danger to my health?. It seems to me that asking my Doctor would not be helpful as I know she would not be up to speed on this type of exercise. So, do I become a guinea pig and hope that while doing this I will survive the experience or do I just carry on as normal?. A bit of a quandrey dont you think?.

    At almost 64 YO, I’ve been doing hard intervals for about 5 years in one form or another, along with strength training, which I think is critical as you age. it provides excellent benefits in terms of general fitness and function for me, and it is time efficient. I spend less than 90 minutes a week on formal exercise. doing more has never benefited me and tends to turn me into a slouch the rest of the time. I am not overweight and have no serious medical problems, and I only speak from my experience. Doing this much exercise has helped me stay fit to do what I enjoy. Instead of going to the gym for hours each week, I spend that time doing fun things. Of course, if you like going to the gym or working out, that’s another thing. I just don’t think most of us need to.

    I’m 60 years old and have been on The Fast Diet for 8 weeks and lost 8 kgs. I doubt if I could have lost that amount of weight with 3 minutes of exercise a week! I would like to lose another 7-8kgs. so I’m going to continue with the regimen I’m on as it’s working well for me. When I reach my goal weight I’ll consider cutting back on exercise somewhat but I actually enjoy working out so doubt if I could ever be happy with only 3 minutes a week.

    Dear group, try integrating the hit exercise into your other exercise routines. I am 68 with some medical problems so I limit the hit portion of the exercises, but definitely see the benefit of it. I take some time to unlearn all of the trash the medical profession, especially in the US, has taught us for years. Eat, fast, supplement and exercise and live a long time!

    Thanks for all these useful comments. If you read the book you will see that like the Fast Diet it is a different, in many ways simpler way of achieving health benefits than the standard advice. It really is for everyone, from those already doing lots of exercise to those doing very little. It has been extensively tested on people who are older ( ie 50-70), overweight, unfit and with diabetes. Lots of serious science and serious scientists behind it. Have a look at the web site which will be up in a couple of weeks or do buy the book. It is not intended to replace exercise, if you are already doing it, but to enhance. Short bursts of intense exercise (HIT) have been shown to be more effective at reducing appetite than standard exercise (which rarely leads to weight loss because of compensatory eating).
    Happy New Year! Michael

    Thanks for clearing that up Michael, I will definitely read the book. As hardjudge says you can incorporate it into your existing exercise program and reap the benefits- sounds good to me!

    I’ve read the book and started to incorporate fast exercise into my present exercise regime, I’m looking forward to seeing the results!

    Great that you will try intervals, just be aware that high intensity exercise takes a little getting used to, and it does take a toll on recovery. You might find yourself doing less endurance training, but I think you will like the effect over time of doing less volume at higher intensity.
    Good luck!

    I,ve ordered the book and will be reading it when it arrives in this small village. I’ve been doing 5:2 for 10 months and lost 36 lbs.
    About 5 months ago I watched the Horizon program Michael made on HIIT by using the utube video recommended on this website. I decided to incorporate my own version of HIIT into my 6 hours of exercise a week. I swim 4 times, I Bushwalk and I do Pilates so I couldn’t put it into those easily but decided to put it into my 2 gym sessions by riding 10 minutes instead of 20 on the exercise bike but with three bursts of 20 seconds high intensity of over 100 rims. I added a third gym session so I was doing it 3 times a week. AS K&G 50 says it does take some getting used to but as the Horizon program suggested my blood sugar reading decreased and it feels good. I now try to do the HIIT on my 2 fasts days and 1 other day….

    Is HIT like interval training then?

    Another question .. In the original programme The Truth About Exercise wasn’t HIT specific to a specific genetic profile… ie it benefited some better than others… my memory may be wrong here..

    Incidentally I have lost 2 stone on the Fast Diet since July 2013 and now within sight of being 12st… so many many thanks… had a brill Christmas .. being piggy and guilt free and fasting… and feeling really good on it.

    The book arrived in this small village and I read it in 1 day. Yes the science is interesting but I still can’t believe 3 minutes exercise a week can replace a gym session maybe a combination of gym and High Intensive Interval Training is good for me…It does explain the different exercises and give suggestion both HIIT and High intensity strength training but I think ‘ll have to check with a exercise physiologist what is suitable for me???.

    HIIT is the same as Interval training as HIIT is High Intensity Interval Training, that’s what it stands for.

    For the first 6 months of last year I was doing a combination of HIIT and regular exercise for 45-60 minute sessions (mainly weight training) and also did the Fast Diet for a few months.

    I had good results, reduced my weight and body fat but not sure about other stats but then I had a fall and had to stop exercising and the diet went out the window so now I’m back to square one.

    Still have some back problems so can’t do anything too intensive at the moment but re-starting the diet today and will mainly walk for 60 minutes 2-3 times a week and do some HIIT when my back is feeling good.

    The book is not available on amazon US until late March. I may get the kindle edition then.

    Good for you to start the diet again. I’ve lost 36lbs in 10 months but it hasn’t all been plain sailing as I’ve had to change my thyroxine dose twice as my TSH levels got too low which of course slowed my weight loss for a while….
    But I feel so good for the fasting and now I,ve lost this much people are starting to notice and comment!!!!But I really did the diet for me to get healthier.The weight loss has slowed and I,d like to lose another few kilos so I thought I’d try the Fast Exercise.

    JAT I should say
    I like you watched the horizon exercise program and tried to incorporate the fast exercise by adding some fast sprints to my stationary bike riding in the gym 3 times a week. I must have missed the fast strength exercises on the program.
    Now I’ve read the book I’m going to try and be a bit more systematic. The book suggests you getting your fasting glucose measured first so I’ve made an appointment to see my doctor and do that and talk about which strength exercise I should do.
    My doctor suggested recently I probably should have had my IGF measured before I started the fast Diet so this time I’ll do it right.


    Had a work colleague say he was going to do the 5:2 diet back in November. I had already seen the horizon program a few months earlier but didn’t connect the two.
    I reluctantly decided to give it a go, reluctant because the title uses the two words I dislike the most, FAST and DIET !Anyway I started back in mid November and have been doing it ever since. I started at a weight of 99.2Kg’s and as of today I am 92.9Kg’s(Hmm synergy with the numbers !). I’m only a 167cm so i still have a fair way to go, although i seem to hold my weight in a stocky stature. I got the recipe book first, then I got the Fast Diet book as a requested family Christmas present. I bought the Exercise book last week .

    I find I feel the most healthiness after a fast day, I’m not particularly hungry the following morning, but i do have a few questions.
    1. I generally play golf early in the morning(7.00am) and there are times where it will be after a Fast day,I generally continue the Fast till after golf as I feel fantastic and light on the golf course but feel equally guilty when I break the Fast with a cold beer after the game. I only have 2-3 cans , is this detrimental to the Fast ?

    2.I bought the Fast Exercise book and I have a cross trainer at home.I was thinking i would get the most out of a Fat burning session by doing it the very next morning after a Fast..the exercise book seems to suggest that the afternoon is better but the Fast Diet book suggests the morning? Which is better?

    3. I generally do Monday’s and Thursday’s but will switch to fit in the work function, Xmas party etc. Last week i did Monday and Wednesday and had events and parties Thursday through to Saturday , If you do consecutive days as a fast is 5 days between fasts ineffective if the social life is filling all those 5 days?

    I guess I’m asking because I have just taken off 5-6kgs over the Xmas/New year period and haven’t had to miss or sacrifice any events at all, seem to be doing very well, just want to fine tune it to get the most out of my efforts.I don’t fear or dread fasting days any longer(At the beginning I did), I actually quite enjoy the feeling of hunger these days as I know my body is going to work in repairing itself.
    Cheers from Australia

    I too am. Australian. I’ll attempt to answer your questions but Remember I’m an amateur. I’ve lost 17 kg since February on the diet and it has worked for me.
    I think you can drink beer on a nonfast day. It was recommended to me I break my fast with protein so. I try to have an egg or peanut butter toast. Can you have protein with your beer? Maybe beernuts?
    the best time to do exercise I think is a personal decision? I notice the science says early afternoon in the book but Michael did say in the diet book he exercised on the way to work? I do 2 gym sessions , 4 swims, a Pilates class and 2 bushwalks in my normal week. One of the gym sessions is on my fast days and I do it in the morning when I seem to have more energy and I have been doing HIIT in that session for 5 months since I saw the exercise Horizon video on utube.
    I do change my days occasionally for social occasions. I like to do Mon and Thurs but last week did Monday and Wednesday . It doesn’t seem to effect my weight loss what days I do. I’ve had a few plateaus but just persevere.
    I should add I’m 61, am on thyroxine and have a dodgy ankle so can’t run.
    Hope that helps

    Married man in my 50’s. I have gradually gained weight over the years, despite or because of yoyo dieting. Now 1.5 stone over weight and ready to something about it! This IF diet sounds like something I could keep doing in the long term. Let’s see

    Hoestar, as far as I know you can have your beer, actually also two if you like, but you do have to count the calories even on non-fast days so that you stay within your TDE. As fas as I know a beer has around 200 cal. So with a couple of beers you very quickly reach your TDE and you have not eaten anything yet 😉
    Best of luck
    P.S. I do think we should put these questions into another thread as this one is about the new Fast Exercise book!

    Thanks for that Beavergong and Stef,
    Beer-nuts !!great suggestion ! I actually did have peanut butter on toast in the morning, but given it was the one slice and I wasn’t going to eat again for 5 hours I considered the fast still on. I have noticed that there is a thread for southern hemispherites so i might nick on over there , apologies for placing this in the exercise thread.

    Yes this is perfect for you! I’m 47 and lost 6 kg over the last 8 weeks. I fast 2 consecutive days as it gets it over and done with 🙂 I recommend get blood tests done so you can celebrate the unseen benefits as well as a reduced waist line.

    When I was a teenager, I was engaged in “serious” sport. I was swimming up to 7 km per day. At some point I’d reached a plateau were I wasn’t improving. I wasn’t getting any faster.

    So my trainer changed my workout plan, and fitted in the following training exercise:

    4 x 200 metres as follows:
    1 length (50 m) freestyle, breathing every 3 strokes
    1 length, breathing every 5 strokes
    1 length, breathing every 7 stokes
    1 length, with max. two breaths for the entire length

    This put my body under the same type of stress you mentioned in your film, and about two weeks later I had qualified within the Junior Olympic time range, and my workouts were able to be reduced to swimming about 3 km per day for maintenance levels.

    I’m not sure that the Fast Exercise Plan will do much for long-distance endurance, but I do believe it will bring about marked improvement for overall performance.

    I have copd stage 3 my lung function test showed I have 32% capacity, I also have very little muscle in my total body arm, legs and bottom. My chest Dr says I should eat a high protein diet, and use an exercise bike a least 3 times a week. I should be able to raise my lung function to 44%. I will try this exersice and see how much I can improve things, but I think I will need to go every slowly. What do you guy think? I don’t need to lose weight I need to tone up.I use the fast diet as well I am 5. 2 and 52kgs

    “I will try this exersice and see how much I can improve things, but I think I will need to go every slowly.”

    This is courageous of you to consider this and only you would know what’s best for you.

    Having someone at your side to monitor you may also be appropriate.

    I already use the exercise bike I do 13km in 40 mins, 3 x a week, I also record my peak flow twice a day and I use an oximeter, O2 levels are usually between 96% & 99% blood saturation, pulse rate depends ususlly on my asthma as the situation changes constantly.

    According to my Doc my heart is fonctioning on both sides, and my 32% capacity is working normally, hence the O2 levels being good, I also walk the dog about 6kms every day, if its not raining. It’s quite amusing sometimes because I appear to be healthier and more active than a lot of people I know, who are the same age and supposed to be healthy .

    My max heart rate is 166 according to the maths, but I think I will keep it lower than that, due to lung incapacity, at the moment I try to keep it between 120 and 130 when working out if goes above, I reduce pedalling and slow down

    I think after I have finished the book, I will work on building muscle first then work with HIT, doing 10 seconds at a time. Until then I will do 20mins, instead of 40mins .But I do think that in the long run this might actually be safer, than slogging, and straining my lungs.

    I’ve watched both documentaries and read both books and like the idea of HIT mixed with an alternate day fasting diet ADF. I have a simple questions about research concerning IGF1.

    One of the main benefits of IF is reducing your IGF1 (linked to many cancers).
    One of the effects of HIT is to boost IGF1 and testosterone.

    So don’t these cancel out?
    (I’m aware there are other benefits besides this and have adopted both protocols for the numerous other benefits. I’m just wondering if anyone (Michael?) has research on whether the reduction in IGF1 through fasting, is somewhat counteracted by HIT, and to what extent?

    Anyone read any actual science on this issue?

    This is a great question Snelly and one I’ve pondered myself.
    Does anyone know about 8:12 intervals as distinct to 20 second HIIT intervals Michael recommends in the book. I’ve been doing the three 20 second intervals at full pace since I saw the video some months back but my osteopath suggested I try 8 seconds intervals full pelt and 12 second recovery for 10 minutes working up to 20 minutes and I tried the 10 minutes this morning. I only missed one 8 second in the full 10 minutes which I thought was pretty good for the first time and did get up to 125 rpm for a few Can anyone tell me the benefit of one over the other?

    “Can anyone tell me the benefit of one over the other?”

    Maybe you could tell us the benefit for you?

    I’m sticking with the science based Tabata of 20:10 (20 secs full speed, 10 secs rest) for 8 repetitions. 4 Minutes & it’s a complete cardio workout.

    I’m drained after that.

    It may just be an individual preference.

    Ultimately, just do something.

    Hi Snelly,

    I think that they are supposed to cancel each other out, we need some IGF-1 to replace completely worn out cells,
    The most damage will come from intense activity, so when you do HIT it goes up, and when you fast it reduces, and cancels each other out. This is the beauty of our bodies.

    Also remember that most cancers are due to bad life style choices, so I don’t think you need to worry too much,
    Fast diet and fast exercise, seem to me a logical way to live. They balance each other, and keep the in the body balance, try to put the two together. This is my take on it.

    I live in the U.S. and will have to wait until the end of the March for the book to be published here! Oh well. It’s on pre-order for sure!

    Hi everyone – I came across the book in November and have been combining now with regular swimming and dance.

    I usually swim 1 km / 40 x 25m laps about twice a week. I decided to split that into 4 x 10 laps and at the end of each set of 4, the last lap I would do flat out. Rest 1 minute and then continue. Pretty amazing.

    Now I am including this into some dance routines. It is surprisingly difficult to do, given it’s only short but my resting heart rate dropped from about 67 to between 47-53. I am also doing the 5:2 fasting diet and whilst I have lost some weight, I have mostly changed shape. It does feel good to eat less intermittently.

    Here’s a YouTube playlist of 2 warmups + 2 cardio dances – see what you think. works for me and it’s great fun 🙂 Nora

    I decided to see what exercising on a fast day was like. I managed in a 5 mile run and felt fantastic.

    I use a Garmin GPS and a a heart rate monitor but made the assumption that I can’t “claim back” the calories that i burnt off during exercise.

    Hi Penketh Slimmer

    I would say you were right in your assumption. The 500 – Female/600 – male cals for a fast day is a rule of thumb, rather than an exact calculation. However, it doesn’t include or exclude exercise. Lots of people report exercise on FD is great. I really must try it sometime!

    Btw Have you calculated your TDEE? See ‘How it works’ link at top of page. Your activity level is taken into account for that ie if your regular exercise increased, so would your TDEE.

    Hope this makes sense

    More than two years on, and with the greatest respect to yoyo, I too would like a considered response to snelly’s question regarding the apparently contradictory effects of HIIT and IF respectively on IGF-1.

    For the record, I am 56 years of age and have had great results so far from 5:2 IF, losing a stone after 20 fast days. I now weigh significantly less than my rugby-playing 18 year-old self and would have stopped here but for my perception that I need to lose more belly fat to reach and go beyond that 1:2 waist/height ratio, (I have ‘only’ 1-2 cm to go).

    I had built up to 25km a week running (2x10km and 1x5km alternate day) until I bruised(?) my heel and have switched to HIIT on the exercise bike*. Hence, my interest in a response to snelly’s enquiry.

    If I reach maintenance mode and continue with HIIT my interest in this science will remain relevant.

    Having bought the books (well, family members have) and testified happily to the benefits of combining IF and HIIT, and having spent more time than I would have liked trying to make sense of what little I have found on line (well nothing, actually, it seems to me) with a direct bearing on this question, I would be most grateful if the web-meister or someone could give Michael a nudge and ask him for his opinion. In the book ‘fast exercise’ there is not a single mention of IGF-1, which frankly, I find a little strange.

    Of course, I would be most grateful if anyone else would like to weigh in with an informed opinion.

    *I feel that even my modest tri-weekly 4×15 second sprints against moderate resistance with 1 minute 45 second recoveries are doing me a power of good.

    Thank you yoyo, there’s a lot to unpack isn’t there. The Tim Ferriss thing reminded me that I don’t want to become obsessed with data. The question in the forum hasn’t been answered but maybe it doesn’t matter or there is no reliable theory on it right now. In the end we play the cards we have been dealt as well as we can. On the other hand the boundaries of our knowledge are being pushed back…

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