Rugby legend and pundit Brian O’Driscoll is on a mission to get the UK moving.
With a shocking 20 million Brits classed as ‘physically inactive’, the 141-cap Ireland, and British and Irish Lion, has teamed up with EXi: an award-winning app that provides personalised exercise prescription to those suffering from any number of 23 long-term conditions (including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, cancer and long-Covid).
Here O’Driscoll talks MF through his partnership with EXi, and how he manages his own relationship with exercise post-retirement.
Why have you partnered with EXi?
Since I retired, I’ve looked at getting involved in things that can add real value to people’s lives, and when I came across EXi I felt as though it was the perfect app for combatting the obesity epidemic and getting people moving.
So many people don’t know how to start. Sometimes you need something that’s very tailored to your own individual needs, especially if you’ve got some chronic issues that need to be taken into account. EXi offers specific, tailored advice based on those individual needs.
What sets EXi apart from other exercise apps?
It’s NHS-approved, for a start. But it’s also prescribing exercise as medicine for people with chronic conditions or sedentary lifestyles. For a lot of people there is too much information too soon and it’s almost all-consuming, but EXi builds things slowly and steadily.
So many other apps are designed for people who are familiar with exercise, or they’re straight into the main programme, whereas this is very much holding your hand through the early stages of reintroduction to exercise, which many people need.
This app should help, but how else do you think the some 20 million ‘sedentary’ people in the UK can be won round to the benefits of regular exercise?
We’re not targeting the CrossFitters of this world – they’re already ‘captured’ – this is about helping people who don’t realise the benefits that exercise can bring to their lives.
I always say, the hardest bit about exercise is putting your trainers on. You will never, ever regret going for that walk, run or workout.
EXi can help people get to that start point, and once they realise the benefits of staying active, they won’t stop.
I work out with a personal trainer friend of mine every now and then, and he said something to me the other day that made so much sense. He said, ‘What about, if after every one of your three meals, you went for a ten-minute walk?’ Who doesn’t have ten minutes to spare after eating? That’s three-and-a-half hours of exercise a week.
Sometimes people have themselves fooled that they don’t have time for exercise or they can’t fit it in, but if you take it in bite-sized chunks you will eventually get there.
As a former elite athlete, how do you manage your own relationship with exercise now that it’s no longer your job?
It was a real challenge initially. I trained quite hard for about six or seven months after I retired, because I’ve got a ‘big person’ in me, for sure! So a few of the lads were saying, ‘I can’t wait to see you in a year’s time, you’re going to be as big as a bus.’ I thought, I’m not having that.
But after a while I realised it was both boring and unsustainable. Then I found more of a balance with it and made it part of my daily routine, to the point that it’s now the non-negotiable in my day.
And why do you exercise these days?
It’s a complete mood-changer. Mental happiness is more important to me than anything else. I don’t live to work; I live to live. Every single day I walk my kids to school, and I walk the dog, so I get my steps up, and then I allocate another hour to working out. For me, the psychological benefits of that are significant.
You need to enjoy it: if you’re slogging it out every day and hating it, you’re eventually going to stop. For me, what works is a bit of weight lifting, followed by five minutes of HIIT on the assault bike at the end. That’s me sorted, and that’s what works for me.
Brian O’Driscoll is the global ambassador for EXi: the NHS-approved, Sport-England backed app. He is passionate about highlighting the importance of exercise prescription for those living a sedentary lifestyle or suffering from chronic health conditions.