A website that sends me to the gym www.concept2.co.uk

An indoor rowing league has inspired Dr Neil Paul and his patients to increase their fitness levels

I have recently started using a rowing machine in an effort to lose weight and get fitter. It was a patient who suggested it, when I explained that I do not enjoy running and worry about damage to my knees. One of the most popular rowing machines is the Concept2 — a serious piece of kit that can be found in many gyms, including the one that I use. I hope to own one eventually. These machines have a computer with built-in programs for training and weight loss. It also shows you how far and fast you have rowed, allows you to race against the computer, and it even lets you race against other people on machines connected via the internet.

Even more impressive than the machine is the website that goes with it. Aside from the sales pitch for the machines, there is a huge information resource of interest to health professionals and patients alike. There are inspirational case studies of people who have lost weight. There are clubs to join depending on how many million kilometres you have rowed on the machine. There are downloadable documents on how to lose weight, a specialist program for rugby players and a 253-page document that includes more sports physiology than I was taught at medical school.

I now am aware of different target heart rates for different types of exercise and understand different ways of measuring levels of exercise and assessing fitness.

This website has given me more confidence to discuss exercise for fitness and weight loss with patients. I had always assumed that any exercise was good. Now I can pontificate on different regimes — although I always suggest that patients get more expert advice. The number of patients who have used one is quite surprising, but they do use them differently. One patient competes at home via the internet, and another thinks that is really sad. I run a ‘league table’ of who has the fastest time over 2,000m. I can’t reveal the participants, but I do let them know ‘other patient’s’ speeds. I would like to get one for the physio gym at the surgery and then we could really compete.

After 10 weeks of rowing, I am a lot fitter. I can row for 45 minutes — 35 more than when I started. Weight loss is minimal so far, but then I prefer cardio workouts to more boring weight-loss ones.

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