Boot camps / weight loss camps

The very first boot camps were military-style institutions that used discipline, military style exercises, and rigorous physical training to "break" a defiant adolescent with the aim of returning them home as a person who would respect authority, follow rules, and improve behaviour at home and school.

bootcamp/weight loss campsToday, the term ‘boot camp’ also referred to as weight loss or fat camps, are more synonymous with places for overweight people to go and receive nutritional advice and take part in a rigorous exercise regime in order to kick start a weight loss and/or exercise programme.

Boot camps are run mostly outdoors and a great way to help people to get back into regular training, or to give a boost to an existing exercise, fitness and weight loss targets.

People can attend a one day, weekend or full week boot camp and then often go home with a real sense of achievement, re-energised and feeling fitter than ever – as well as motivated to keep on track with their exercise schedule.

As well as full exercise programmes, boot camps offer information advice about nutrition, behaviour in relation to food (eg why people might be making bad food choices), workshops, recipes and meal plans, health assessments and programmes to take home.

Alternatively you can create your own boot-camp-style workout for free. Plan your routine, mixing running with a series of exercises such as jumping jacks, squats, lunges, running stairs, push-ups, bench dips and squat thrusts. Do a bit of research online to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly before starting out. For extra motivation, try to enrol a friend to do the boot camp sessions with you.

Alternative outdoor exercises include:

  • Walking during your daily activities
  • Making use of free running programmes/podcasts e.g. Couch to 5k or online fitness demonstrations
  • Cycling to work
  • Stair climbing (taking the stairs instead of the lift)
  • Park games (family games that involve short sharp bursts of activity and periods of rest eg hide and seek)
  • Skipping
  • Trim trails (also known as fitness trails or activity trails) are made up of simple pieces of exercise equipment, such as parallel bars, leapfrog blocks, inclined press-ups and balance beams, dotted around parks, recreation areas or alongside cycle routes. Ask your local council if there's a trim trail in your area.
  • Green Gyms (digging, planting, lopping and path-clearing at one of 95 free Green Gyms around the country, run by The Conservation Volunteers)
  • Park football (choose a group of players of similar age and ability and who seem like they're just starting their game. If the game's already started, the goalkeeper is probably the best person to approach)
  • Mall walking (Mall walking, which is brisk walking through large shopping centres, contact your local shopping centre to see if this is available in your area).
  • Free exercise initiatives (Contact your local authority, your local leisure centre may well be offering initiatives such as free exercise classes or a free swim on certain days of the week to encourage people to get in shape).
  • Free gym passes (many gyms offer free day passes, they may encourage you to sign up afterwards, but this is a good way to test whether the gym is something that would suit you).

A study was carried out between 2003 and 2007 by Oxford Brookes University into the benefits of a Green Gym. The study found that the most highly rated factors in joining a gym were being outdoors and improving the environment. One of the lowest rated factors was losing weight. Despite this physical and mental health improved during this time and in particular attendees reported feeling a sense of achievement and a positive self-worth.

The results of this study demonstrate potential benefits of outdoor exercise and group programmes, and how these may bring about unexpected positive results alongside improved health.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

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Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 10 March 2015

Next review: 10 March 2018