The question: I really want to get back into shape and lose some weight. My friends seem to be getting good results with the "30-day squat challenge" that is popular on Facebook. Should I try it? Does it work and are those challenges safe?
The answer: As a trainer I feel slightly ridiculous discouraging any form of exercise. I am obviously in favour of you adopting a healthier lifestyle, but the truth is, I am not a huge fan of any of the 30-day challenges.
They are basically a recipe for injury. With the squat challenge, you start by doing 50 repetitions. After 30 days, you are expected to complete 250 squats in one workout. Most newbie lifters, and even some seasoned lifters, can barely do 10 squats with perfect form, let alone over 50-plus.
This may sound counterintuitive, but to achieve your goals you are better off doing fewer squats, but being sure you do them properly. (My clients would probably laugh if they heard me discouraging you from doing squats. I am sure they think I love squats way too much).
To lose weight, you want to increase your lean muscle mass so that your metabolism improves. Hundreds of squats (probably done with poor form) are not the best way to increase your lean muscle mass. Instead, do three to five sets of squats with a weight you can lift for 12 to 20 reps. Remember that squats may be a powerful exercise, but they will only produce results when done as part of a well-balanced routine that includes an appropriate nutrition and activity overhaul.
Basically, when trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle you need to think big picture. You need to sit less, become more mindful of your daily health habits, improve your nutrition and move more.
Trainer's tip: It is great that your friends are trying to be active. You can motivate each other! Just try not to compare yourselves to each other. Remember, no two individuals react to exercise in the same way – everyone's fitness and health journey will be unique. How your body responds to any exercise will be influenced by your age, gender, genetics, fitness history, nutritional habits and current activity level. If your friends reach their goals sooner, don't get discouraged and use their success as an excuse to sabotage your own efforts. Appreciate and love your body and your genetic window. Work to be the best possible version of yourself!
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for over 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.