Want to lose body fat without spending hours in the gym? We thought it was a pipe dream too – then we tried a new device called the Activ5
When Dr Costa Yiannis found himself travelling more and more for work, he faced a quandary, give up his exercise routine based around gym work or well, invent a portable form of exercise that would provide the same benefits of a gym workout that he could do anywhere, anytime. It’s something many of us have faced, but as Yiannis happened to be a nuclear physicist he was better placed than most of us to find a solution, ie, invent one. Much trial and error later, the Activ5 was launched in the US in January 2017 and is now hitting the UK.
What’s all the fuss about the Activ5?
This is a small, sleek curved gadget that fits into the palm of your hand. Paired with the Activ5 app, it’s used for endless strength training exercises that are all based on pressing or squeezing the device. That makes it sound easy. Trust me, it really really isn’t. It’s designed to be used with the app for five minutes, three times a day for six weeks and studies using the Activ5 have shown it can lead to a staggering 30 per cent reduction in body fat.
the Activ5 could provide full body toning, through both sitting and standing moves
In the trial, users of the Activ5 were compared, over a six week period to those doing traditional exercises including treadmill, indoor rowing, lunges, squats and abdominal crunches. The participants saw an decrease in five per cent body fat a week and 62-71 per cent of their weight loss was pure body fat. What was more staggering was that on average, the Activ5 users generated 39 per cent more muscle activity in their quadriceps (the large muscle on the front of your thigh) during squats and 59% more activity in that muscle than those doing treadmill or indoor cycling workouts. And if you’re booty-building, get this. The participants also generated 25 per cent more buttock muscle activity than squats and 50 per cent more than indoor cycling. The study found the Activ5 could provide full body toning, through both sitting and standing moves. The app also coaches your progress, as well as correct form for each move and tracks your results too.
Now launching in the UK by EMPpad Lifestyle, a health company specialising in marrying the latest technology with expert knowledge, osteopath and co-founder Samuel Maddock, believes it will be a game-changer in the fitness world. ‘We found so many of our clients couldn’t exercise because of mobility or travel constraints, and when we saw the Activ5 and its potential to build strength and help lead to weight loss with very little time commitment, we were impressed.’
So, how does it work?
Super simple, you download the app, switch on the device and go straight to a five minute workout – you can choose from Upper Body, Lower Body, Get Strong, Get Toned, Yoga/Pilates, Awesomee Abs, Butt Burner, Watching TV, Office, hotel or Car/Plane/Train. Or, you can sign up to a six week challenge and the app will set you a five minute workout for morning, daytime and evening. The workouts are all five minutes long and each contain about 12-18 moves, which are repeated sets of about 3-4 different exercises. Each exercise involves a variation of using a body part to put pressure on the Activ5 gadget. For example, this could mean putting it under your ankle and then holding a sumo squat or pushing it against your chest with your palms during crunches.
You begin each move by setting your own 100 per cent strength capacity for that move by squeezing as hard as you can in the move you’re doing (this could be squeezing under your ankle during a squat or pressing on the gadget with your hand in plank) then this intelligent little machine will guide you through reaching 60-80 per cent of that during each move. That sounds complicated, but honestly is just so, so, so easy. And by George, it hurts and rather feels like the longest five minutes of your life.
Competitive? You will love this
The Activ5’s game-changing factor is well, the fact that it’s actually a game you can play against yourself and other people. Each move requires you to stick to a certain level as you squeeze and hit certain points along the way (left), all of which result in higher scores. Then, that gets translated into an equivalent amount of weight lifted and shows on your statistics, so you’re constantly competing against your personal best. ‘The gamification element of the Activ5 allows someone to engage in exercise that’s difficult because the competitive element can be distracting,’ says Maddock. ‘What’s more, they can compete with themselves and other people which helps people stay on the programme. But the biggest plus we have found is five minutes, three times a day is a framework that most people can actually work into their lives for six weeks.
What I love about this product is that I can do it at work or at home, it really works my body more than normal strength exercise but I don’t even have to get out of my work clothes or even my pyjamas and get all sweaty. Pat work, people watch me seeing the little ball moving up and down according to how hard I am working and are constantly intrigued by what I am doing, impressed that such a small gadget can make me huff and puff like I would do on a treadmill. (Check Healthista in six weeks’ time to read Anna Magee’s personal trial of the Activ5)
But how can the Activ5 work better than traditional exercise?
The Activ5 is based on isometric exercise, which involves tensing and contracting the muscles as much as you can and then holding a move for a set time. Imagine you’re pressing both legs together as hard as you can and holding, or holding your hands in prayer position and pushing as hard as you can – both are examples of isometric exercise. Think Barre classes where you hold moves for long periods, where there doesn’t appear to be much going on but under the surface, that muscle is being annihilated. In such moves, muscles are being activated but there is equal force from both sides so no movement is taking place. Using the Activ5 as the point on which you squeeze, you can use it to do hundreds of different moves on the Activ5 app, from squats to lunges, crunches to press ups, planks to warriors and downward dog yoga poses and choose a six week challenge (five minutes, three times daily) or workouts for specific needs and body parts, for example upper body, abs, on the plan, at work etc.
What are the benefits off isometric exercise then?
Scientists have been studying isometric exercise for decades, and discovered some impressive benefits. Weight loss was top, with one test study featured in the Journal of Applied Research finding that some participants lost as much as 22 pounds over a 4-week period. Why is it so effective for losing weight? ‘Isometric is effective for weight loss because it recruits the muscle and makes the muscle work in a strong way, which can burn a lot of calories,’ says Maddock. ‘This leads to an increase in muscle strength and toning quite quickly and more muscle you have, the more fat you burn, which is why study participants lost so much body fat.’ But it didn’t end there. Surprisingly, according to the Human Psychopharmacology Journal, brief isometric exercise can provide immediate relief from the desire to smoke while other evidence has found it could help reduce blood pressure, improve stamina and enhance range of motion.
ACTIV5: THE BASICS
What is it? A small gadget and app that uses squeezing and muscle contractions to help you do moves for the entire body set into hundreds of five minute workouts.
How does it work? You switch on the Activ5 app, power up the device, press start and follow the instructions through the workout. It covers all levels and the moves you do are the equivalent of traditional squats, crunches, planks, lunges along with yoga moves such as warrior and downward dog, only you hold them, without moving.
How difficult is it? It’s difficult, but do-able. According to the data, the results are the same (or better) than if you’d done traditional exercise in the gym.
How much? How often? Five minutes, three times a day for six weeks – these challenges are available on the app and you can increase the difficulty of the challenges you take as you get more experienced.
Will I lose weight? Probably. The research on the device found that participants increased their strength by 30 per cent in six weeks and up to 71 per cent of their weight loss during that time was body fat. Impressive, no?