Thursday, April 25

75 Hard has a cult following. Is it worth all this effort?

Two 45 minute workouts per day. One liter of water. 10 pages of a non-fiction book. A diet. No “light meals” or alcohol. For 75 days.

And if you make a mistake, you have to start over from the beginning.

Does it seem like a lot? It should be. The program, called 75 Hard, is aimed at increasing mental toughness. Some say the rigidity is what makes it great, while others say it makes it problematic.

Since it was created in 2019, 75 Hard has developed something of a cult following, with practitioners posting daily progress pictures and videos that sometimes rack up millions of views on TikTok and Instagram. One of Reddit’s largest subreddits, with over 44,000 members, is dedicated to the program.

But is it beneficial and are the changes sustainable? Psychologists say that while the program may have mental health benefits, some vulnerable groups may go too far without any benefit. Exercise experts also say the regimen could be too strenuous for those who aren’t already young and active and could lead to physical injury.

“It may seem really interesting and exciting and useful, but is it something that is ultimately really useful, sustainable, good for the person?” asked Dr. Thea Gallagher, clinical psychologist and director of wellness programs at New York University.

“It would be great to have more ongoing and rigorous research into these exciting slash-challenge programs,” he said.

Andy Frisella, the creator of 75 Hard and a motivational speaker, encourages people to talk to a doctor before starting the program. His team did not respond to a request for comment.

According to Frisella, who said in a 2022 episode of his podcast that he spent 20 years developing 75 Hard, tens of thousands of people have completed the program, which is intended to help people develop resilience, grit and perseverance, among other features.

“This is the Iron Man equivalent of climbing Mount Everest,” Frisella said on the podcast. “Whatever you see all these other people doing that they’re so proud of, that’s the equivalent of that for your brain.”

People who have completed the program have said on social media that it has helped them improve their confidence, lose weight, try new workouts and accomplish what they set out to do. Many complete it in the first 75 days of the year, while others start it whenever they need a reset.

The hardest thing about the program varies from person to person. But many have balked at requiring two daily 45-minute workouts and avoiding “cheat meals” — that is, deviating from whatever diet you’ve chosen for yourself — and alcohol for the duration of the program.

Mr. Frisella explained that workouts can be of any intensity level, even a walk. At least one of the two daily training sessions must be carried out outdoors.

One participant on TikTok took a walk outside during a blizzard, another completed a strength workout in the rain, while another jumped rope for 45 minutes outdoors at night. Others varied their indoor workouts by alternating running, strength training, yoga and more.

By going outdoors, the program reinforces the lesson that “conditions are not always going to be perfect,” Frisella said in a 2019 episode of his podcast.

Daily workouts must be separated by at least three or four hours.

In particular, the program does not include integrated rest days.

The program also insists that participants follow a diet – such as a vegetarian, vegan or ketogenic diet – but Frisella doesn’t offer much guidance on what that should be, only that people should choose “a diet that will improve your physical health.”

Participants must follow the chosen diet without deviations, otherwise start the program again.

Alcohol is strictly prohibited.

“Something like this could boost someone’s confidence or their mental toughness,” said Dr. Kate Gapinski, a psychology professor at the University of San Francisco.

“When you see that you’re able to complete something that difficult, and actually stick with it for 75 days, which is a pretty long time for a significant change in habits, I could see that it inspires confidence toward other difficult tasks in the future,” he said .

The program promotes certain behaviors that psychologists encourage their patients to adopt.

Homework that can be completed quickly – that is, 10 pages of reading a non-fiction book – are exactly the kind of bite-sized tasks that experts say could encourage people to try to make a change in their lives.

But challenges can arise when tasks are too big or seem unsustainable. “If you do something that takes a lot of energy and cutting and motivation and commitment, the problem is that when you fail to do it, sometimes people end up feeling demoralized and worse off than when they started,” Dr. Gallagher said.

Some participants take the program very seriously. The program “is hard for a reason,” one poster on the subreddit wrote. “If you don’t like it, go somewhere else or at least don’t get mad when people call you out on your schedule changes.”

But several health experts were concerned about such strict regimens.

The exercise requirements could be worrisome for inactive or frail people, said Patrick J. O’Connor, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Georgia.

“Ninety minutes a day would be excessive for some people and could lead to injury for some people,” he said. “A lot of times, the biggest risk of injury is if someone goes from very little to a lot.”

Mr. O’Connor pointed out that the program involved a total of 630 minutes of exercise each week, or more than four times the amount recommended by federal officials, namely 150 minutes of “moderate-intensity physical activity” and two days of strength training. Force. .

There are also concerns about the mental health consequences of such a no-exceptions program.

“I would not recommend the program to people with active eating disorders,” Dr. Gapinski said. “With eating disorders, we’re actually trying to increase comfort around the types of foods consumed,” he said, adding that moderation is emphasized in treatment.

It may be more helpful for people to find small tasks that are meaningful to them instead of choosing a prescriptive schedule, said Dr. Alexandra Gold, a clinical psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

“I think if someone is just given a prescription like, ‘Oh, do these things,’ it doesn’t necessarily originate with them, and that’s an important factor for consistency and sustainability as well,” Dr. Gold said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, numerous modified versions of the plan have emerged, including 75 Soft. In that version, water requirements are lower and only a 45-minute daily workout is required.