As the winter hibernation period ends, gyms across the country have already begun promoting their various body transformation and ‘body blitz’ programs.
While the plans vary in diet and exercise, they usually have one thing in common – they last for 12 weeks.
Typical are Michelle Bridge’s hugely popular ‘12 Week Body Transformation‘ program and Women’s Health & Fitness Magazine’s ‘BodyBlitz 12-week Challenge‘. But is three months really long enough to change your lifestyle for the better?
“On the surface, a 12-week program can be a good start,” says Kylie Ball, Principal Research Fellow in the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research at Deakin University.
“There is some evidence that it takes people around two months to develop a new habit. For somebody trying, for example, to start up an exercise program, then a 12-week program can be a really nice way to kick-start that habit,” says Professor Ball.
Not a long-term solution
Despite being able to establish new habits, Professor Ball warns that these ‘blitzes’ may not be effective enough when it comes to longer-term fitness.
“In terms of the length alone, I’d say that it’s good as a kick-start, but on its own, doing a 12-week program and expecting that to keep you at a healthy weight in the long term, that’s probably not going to happen,” she says.
“In terms of keeping certain fitness levels or healthy weight goals, you really need to be looking at something that’s sustainable and ongoing beyond just a 12-week program.”
Good form of support
Wellness blogger Liz Christie lost 30 kilos in the past 20 months, and says it wouldn’t have been possible without Michelle Bridge’s program.
“Sometimes it’s hard enough just to drag yourself to the gym, and then you get there and it’s like ‘what am I going to do?,” Christie says.
“Having the program there ready to go, you get it on your phone or you print it out, and then you know what to do and you don’t have to think about it.”
But was 12 weeks really long enough for her to achieve her goals?
“I know people that have done that, and 12 weeks is all that they’ve needed, but I had 30 kilos to lose, so that took a little longer than 12 weeks,” she admits.
Professor Ball says people need to be aware of unrealistic promises.
“Anything that promises an unrealistically large weight loss in 12 weeks is probably too good to be true,” she says.
Celebrity nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin says that people need to be eating well all year round, instead of just in the lead up to summer.
“I think when we call these ‘transformation diets’, it’s just a catch phrase,” says Bingley-Pullin. “The one thing I always say to people is that I think I would be out of a job if people would just abide by the government recommendations of five servings of vegetables every day and two servings of fruit.”
Adds Bingley-Pullen: “That alone is one of the smartest and most easy things that you can do to get yourself really healthy.”