Fashions in body shapes vary to a bemusing degree even from decade to decade. When, during her investigation into home exercise trends, lissom presenter Mehreen Baig talks about the possibility of getting a “massive bum” from the internet-hyped “Booty Workout”, it takes a moment to realise that she thinks huge glutes would be a desirable outcome.
Home workouts have become popular during the pandemic, but in The Truth About Getting Fit at Home keen exerciser Baig wants to find out whether the living room can ever replace the gym as a place to trim down or bulk up. She’s certainly diligent: over the course of an hour, she consults scientists at the universities of Nottingham, Glasgow, Portsmouth, Durham, Northumbria, Sheffield Hallam and Liverpool John Moores. With their help, Baig queries the efficacy of trendy HIIT workouts, yoga and strength training, and discovers just how little exercise the six main muscle groups need, according to new research.
Covering in addition compression garments, running technique, bodybuilding supplements and fitness apps, the programme spreads itself, like light margarine, a little too thinly on its high-density base. Watching a scientist put 15 spoons of sugar in a glass and saying “read the label” amounts to no great shakes. The segment on sports bras — compression, encapsulation and combination — is interesting. ★★★☆☆
Despite the buzzy title, the approach of Are Women the Fitter Sex? is altogether less Insta-focused, being concerned with lower rates of mortality in women across all kinds of ailments, not least Covid-19. In England, male deaths from Covid are double that of women, despite there being slightly more confirmed cases in women. When it comes to HIV, women apparently have a five times greater chance of completely suppressing the virus with their immune systems. Men are also more likely to develop cancer and diabetes. The idea that it’s because men indulge in riskier behaviours, such as smoking and drinking, is refuted by cancer statistics in boys and girls.
Presenter Dr Ronx, jaw regularly dropping, discovers that women have traditionally not been used in scientific tests, as hormonal fluctuations in the monthly cycle can confuse the results. There is still no legal requirement to include women in clinical trials. More and more evidence indicates that the female body is profoundly different in the way the immune system works, and in all likelihood it’s due to the extra X chromosome, replete with additional genetic material. Clinical bias seems omnipresent, from across-the-board prescription of drugs that work better for men, to the underdiagnosis of autism in girls. Women even experience heart attacks differently. As the always enthusiastic Dr Ronx puts it: “Wow!” ★★★★☆
‘The Truth About Getting Fit at Home’ airs January 13, 9pm on BBC1
‘Are Women the Fitter Sex?’ airs January 12, 10pm on Channel 4
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