TV shows taken to task for promoting extreme exercise

TV shows such as The Biggest Loser have been criticised by industry group Exercise & Sports Science Australia.
TV shows such as The Biggest Loser have been criticised by industry group Exercise & Sports Science Australia. Contributed

POPULAR extreme-makeover shows such as Channel Ten's The Biggest Loser have been branded risky, unhealthy and irresponsible by an exercise industry organisation.

Exercise & Sports Science Australia executive officer Anita Hobson-Powell believes the frequency and exertions of the exercise imposed on The Biggest Loser contestants by the show's team of professionals were risky and unhealthy.

She said those types of TV programs promoted the concept that if the show's everyman contestants could achieve dramatic and expedited weight loss, we all could.

"While the premise of the show is positive, pursuing health benefits through exercise, nutrition and psychological support, the reality is that injuries can occur from performing exercises incorrectly, old injuries can be exacerbated, and grave physical consequences can result from overexertion," Ms Hobson-Powell said.

"Going from sedentary to active is admirable - but should be undertaken in small steps.

"For those commencing a fitness regime, a gradual ramp-up, appropriate to one's health history is recommended.

"What's more, for those who are deemed obese or overweight, partnership with a GP is highly recommended.

"For those seeking to take the kilos off, the mantra should be: take it slow, and partner with a pro."

A Network Ten representative said the network and Shine Australia, the producer of The Biggest Loser: The Next Generation, were fully aware of the duty of care they had towards all contestants.

"We take that duty of care very seriously and we fully understand our responsibilities," the representative said.

"All our contestants have access to nutritionists, psychologists and medical specialists as well as the trainers.

"The reality is that for obese people, The Biggest Loser  is the best way to change their lives.

"The show is about a complete lifestyle change.

"Having that opportunity to focus on change without any other distraction and with the very best support network is a luxury few could afford."

Exercise & Sports Science Australia said it recommended ongoing exercise management and counselling from an accredited exercise physiologist for those who suffered from existing medical conditions or had at-risk health factors.

"It's unrealistic to expect an inactive person to come off the couch and plunge headfirst into a strenuous daily exercise regime," she said.

"Shows like The Biggest Loser provide an edited version of contestants' daily activities, but the parameters are clear: exercise hard, for long stretches and to the brink of your capacity.

"For the viewer watching at home, this is an irresponsible message to send - not to mention unrealistic, given the number of hours contestants devote to fitness each day.

"These extreme, unsustainable measures should not be attempted at home or without professional supervision.

"The average person does not have access to the resources such extreme makeover shows provide.

"It's all well and good to watch your favourite contestants' kilos slip away, but not everyone has the benefit of a dream team of professionals that are designing, supporting and monitoring your progress.

"Losing weight quickly, as The Biggest Loser promotes, is typically unsustainable.

"Slow and steady wins the race."

Topics:  biggest loser editors picks exercise extreme loss tv weight

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