The P90x Phenomenon: Just a Gimmick?

Late at night or early on a weekend morning you might catch an infomercial for the P90x.  I have to admit I get sucked into the testimonials of “real people” and their before and after pictures showing how their body transformed over the 90 days that you follow the P90x exercise routine.  And [use infomercial voice] you can do it from the convenience of your home with minimal equipment.

Yeah right.

It sounds like a complete gimmick, another marketing ploy to separate us from our hard earned dollars. And you know what?

It absolutely is a gimmick… but what makes this gimmick different is that it works. 

What they don’t tell you in the informercial is that the “gimmick” entails a strict diet and 6 days a week of grueling 1 hour plus work outs.  I know because I ordered it and “almost” completed a 90 day cycle.  And it worked.  As much as the testimonials on TV?  No, but I lost 12 lbs and felt really good, but I found it too hard to keep up and too demanding on my time.  After all I am a father of two young boys and running an internet business.

I want you to understand I’m writing about the P90x not because I am endorsing it as a tool for getting healthy.  I’m not.  Its not for everyone. In fact its not for most people struggling with weight.  You need to be somewhat in shape and not have any lingering issues (I’m talking to you shoulders and low back). While I think the P90x is a great work out, its not the answer for the chronically overweight. But I do believe it offers some clues…

The P90x, and the other dozens of copy cats currently on the market, are interesting because they are marketing the anti-gimmick.  There is no cheating, no short cuts. First and foremost, maintaining a healthy weight is about MATH.

Expend more calories than you take in.  Its that simple.  You have to do the work. And it shouldn’t be just exercise or just diet.  You need to deal with both sides of the equation calorie intake and calorie burn.

The good news is if you make sure you burn more than you eat every day you will lose weight.

What does this mean for the majority of overweight Americans who don’t have the time or capacity to work out every day for an hour like the P90x? Or for those who struggle with chronic disease?  It means you need to adopt the principles of weight loss math: watch what you eat and move more in the context of your situation.

I got into an argument with my mom and brother, both active adults in good health. When I said tracking your steps combined with monitoring calorie consumption is an extremely important tool for improving ones health, they disagreed. “You are never going to get healthy logging 10k steps a day.  You need to get your heart rate up and break a sweat.”  I happen to disagree with their position. Here’s why.

  1. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.  If you start tracking your steps as I am now doing with Fitbit, you will quickly discover how little you move. This is the first wake-up call.  Measuring is one of the best management tools at our disposal.  I actually now track my weight, BMI, food intake and calories using the Fitbit, but you don’t need technology to track your weight and steps.  Stay tuned for a series of blogs on this topic.
  2. Start small & build good habits. For many people, they need to start small. Trying to walk more in the form of steps is a low barrier to getting started.Walking for someone struggling with obesity can be as physically challenging as the P90x for an athlete.
  3. Every movement counts.  When you track steps you begin to understand that taking the stairs, or parking farther away from the office have a cumulative effect.  These small little changes add a lot of movement over the course of the week or month.  This means you burn more calories.  The more you see this, the more you start to move.

As a nation, we can’t afford to keep going down the path we are going.  The simple act of walking more and tracking our steps puts us on a path to better health.

If you then couple more movement with a basic understanding of how many calories you consume in a day.   The math will speak for itself.  Once you understand the formula, the solution is obvious.

Eat less: Move More.

This is one gimmick that actually has the ability to change people’s lives.

What gimmicks have you tried that ended up being a waste of money?   

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