Weight a second… Mathematics can improve fitness?

With only 60 days left until Christmas, before we know it we will be sitting down to think about our new year resolutions. This year I had the stereotypical goal of joining the gym and sticking at it for longer than most of us tend to do. To this day I still attend the gym and studying discovering mathematics has made me realise how much of a role understanding maths has had on my progress to date.

When starting the gym, the first thing to take in to consideration is your diet as attending the gym with a terrible diet would be counterproductive.  According to the National Health Service (2017) each day our nutritional targets are to eat the following to have the best diet:

  • Less than 70g of fat
  • Less than 20g of saturates
  • At least 260g of carbohydrates
  • Less than 90g of sugar
  • At least 50g protein
  • Less than 6g of salt

This means to get the best possible results we need to be able to keep track of what we are eating. Of course, most/all food products in the UK have the ‘traffic light’ system on the packet which means keeping track is made slightly easier. Alongside the traffic light system each food item has a table which has the nutritional value in more detail on the back of the packet.

Food label

Taking this in to consideration, having a fundamental understanding of basic mathematics would help someone significantly in this process. This would allow someone to be able to read packets and decide which food items will help them achieve their goals at the gym and which will hinder them based on the nutritional value. Further, once someone has completed their shop, they will be able to make a diet plan effectively by, for example, deciding how many grams of chicken they need to cook in order to reach their goal.

The workout itself also consists of mathematics regardless if you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle. For example, when running on a treadmill you may decide to do intervals of running and jogging and you would have to decide how long each would last to be most effective. You would also have to decide how long you would stay on that machine for, whether it be for a certain amount of time or until you’ve reached a certain distance. Similarly with weight lifting, you would have to know which weight to use and how many reps you would do in each set along with how many sets you wanted to do in total. As you progress an understanding of mathematics would help you plan what action is best suited for you moving forward, from making your run longer, jog shorter or upping the weight you’re lifting.

Once your diet has been going well and you have been working hard in the gym for a period of time, you may want to check your progress. An understanding of mathematics will also help when you get to this stage and you want to work out how much weight you’ve lost or how much muscle you’ve gained. Upon working out how much progress you have made, you can also use mathematics to set goals for yourself based on the results you had.

Why is this relevant?

Picture of the word obesity

With recent campaigns from Cancer Research UK (no date) highlighting that obesity is the second most common preventable cause of cancer, research shows that 1/5 children are classed as being overweight or obese before they reach primary school (GOV.UK, 2017). Therefore, can a basic understanding of fundamental mathematics help improve the childhood obesity issue we face in the UK, either short or long term? With the Scottish Government (no date) highlighting both ‘Health and Wellbeing’ and ‘Mathematics’ as the responsibility of all practitioners, this gives us the perfect opportunity to link both together and highlight to children the importance of both and try to tackle this issue.

Going forward, now that I am much more aware of the link between fitness and mathematics I will try to ensure the children in my class are too. There is maths in every aspect of fitness and exploring how numbers and health are linked, whilst this may have little effect short term, if this is taught in the correct way, children may go home excited about this asking their parents to try eat more healthy. Long term, when these children grow up they will be aware of this and may start to become more healthy themselves, kick starting a cycle which sees them pay more attention to what their children eat which eventually will have a positive impact.


National Health Service (2017) Reference intakes explained. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/what-are-reference-intakes-on-food-labels/(Accessed 29 October 2018)

Cancer Research UK (no date) Obesity, weight and cancer. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/obesity-weight-and-cancer(Accessed 29 0ctober 2018)

GOV.UK (2017) Childhood obesity: a plan for action. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/childhood-obesity-a-plan-for-action/childhood-obesity-a-plan-for-action(Accessed 29 October 2018)

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