Fitness - Do Less Than You Think?!

You have to do less than you think to get good results.

One of the biggest problems people face when they want to get healthier and fitter is knowing where to start. A situation I’ve seen play out a thousand times with my clients is that they set themselves a goal, then go online or look to social media to figure out exactly how they can start working towards it….

And then they get overwhelmed.

Because so much of the advice often touted by (well-meaning) fitness influencers is pretty unrealistic for the average person who doesn’t want to spend their life in the gym or micromanage every morsel of food they put into their mouth.

The good news is, you don’t have to.

You can do far less than you think to reap the rewards for your long-term health. This isn’t to say that you won’t get any extra benefits from doing more. But it should reassure you that doing less than what we typically hear as being the “gold standard” is still absolutely worth doing, and will still enable you to get MOST of the gains.


“You need to do 10-20 sets per muscle group per week for growth”

Ask any coach how much volume you need for growth, and most will give you this answer. This idea of doing “10-20 sets” is taken from the conclusions of a study done in 2012.

If you’re a busy working parent with a social life to maintain, as well as work deadlines to meet and kids to run around after, putting together a workout that meets this criteria might seem just a little daunting. This kind of information might even make you think, “There’s no way I can fit that into my life… I’m just going to be wasting my time in the gym if I can only do half of that. I guess I won’t bother”.

However! If we dig a little deeper, it turns out that the study also found that…

there was no statistical significance between doing less than 9 sets per muscle group per week and doing more than 9 sets per muscle group per week.

In fact, trainees who did 5-9 sets per week got 84% of the growth that trainees who did closer to 20 did. This is INCREDIBLY reassuring news for people who have limited time to commit to working out. Why? This can easily be fit into one or two 45-minute full-body sessions per week.

To break it down, if you do about 25% of the work, you’d be able to enjoy a whopping 84% of the gains. Proof that you absolutely do not need to spend your whole life in the gym to get great results.

“10,000 steps a day is the gold standard”

This is one of those fitness myths that just WON’T die. If you Google “how much walking should I do”, your search engine will almost definitely spit this number back at you.

Lots of fitness influencers will quote this number as the “bare minimum” you should do, but if we break it down, 10k steps is about 4-5 miles of walking per day, which, if you walk at an average walking pace, will take you about 1.5 to 2 hours per day. That is a lot of time.

But reassuringly, the research consistently shows that you get the MOST benefits at about 6-7k steps. After that, it’s diminishing returns (i.e. you get some benefits, but it’s less bang for your buck in terms of what you get for the effort you’re putting in).

Again, this is amazing news. For many of my clients, who have small children, busy work lives and a hectic social schedule, 10,000 steps daily might seem unachievable, which might lead to them feeling pretty unmotivated to try and do anything.

Knowing that you can benefit from doing 60% of what is often touted as the “bare minimum” is super reassuring.

“You need to eat 1.6-2.2g of protein per kg of body weight”

This is the answer you’ll get from any fitness professional if you ask them how much protein you should aim for. 1.6g/kg of body weight has been seen for a long time as the minimum threshold, i.e. you can benefit from being above that, but being below it is a big “no”.

But when we dig into the data a little bit more, the evidence isn’t really that compelling to say with such confidence that 1.6g is the threshold. It would seem that for the average person, 1.2g per kg of body weight is still a great place to be.

So, if you’ve been told to aim for 2g+ and are finding it hard, it may reassure you that you can still enjoy many of the benefits without having to obsess over grams of protein.

Small caveat that for older populations and vegans, a higher intake MIGHT be more optimal, but again – probably less than we think.

Key takeaways:

  • 1-2 Full body workouts per week is enough
  • 7000 steps per day is enough
  • Protein = 1.2g/kg of body weight is enough

There is so much fitness information online that is designed to be helpful (do this amount of volume, do this amount of steps, eat this amount of protein and so on), but the targets they set can seem pretty unrealistic and overwhelming.

Knowing that you can get MOST of the positive outcomes by doing a bit less if that’s more realistic for you right now, is more inclusive and empowering.

If you’re looking to discuss your health and fitness journey, feel free to connect with me on the HumanOS platform. I’ll be there to guide and support you every step of the way.

Struggling with motivation? Watch our “Motivation Masterclass” with co-founder Connor here.


Emily, HumanOS Personal Trainer