The Medical Minute: 75 Hard, 75 Soft and how to keep your fitness resolutions (2024)

The Medical Minute: 75 Hard, 75 Soft and how to keep your fitness resolutions (1)

The calendar just flipped to 2024, so cue the ads: “Now’s your chance to drop weight, get ripped and let your fitness flag fly!”

January 10, 2024Penn State Health News

Gyms fill. Shoppers empty the diet food sections at your grocery store. And good luck finding a rice cake or a free treadmill at the gym before spring.

Among the more popular life-change regimens this season is the 75 Hard Challenge. Launched by Andy Frisella in 2019, the high-intensity, food, fitness and brain challenge, has gone viral on places like TikTok. The program’s website says it’s “not a fitness challenge. 75 Hard is a transformative mental toughness program.”

75 Hard requires six commitments you must complete every day for 75 days.

  • Two 45-minute workouts. One must be outside.
  • Adhering to a diet. You can pick the diet, but you can’t cheat.
  • Reading 10 pages of a self-help or educational book.
  • Drinking a gallon of water.
  • Taking a progress picture.

The website recommends speaking with a doctor before taking on the challenge, a suggestion Brei Hummer-Bair, a clinical exercise physiologist and human resource technologist at Penn State College of Medicine, agrees with.

Before starting any new exercise plan you should check in with a doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough, Hummer-Bair said. Then, build a plan that’s right for you.

And that plan might not be 75 Hard, she said. “75 Hard is just that,” she said. “It’s very stringent, and it’s not something most people are going to want to stick to.”

Hummer-Bair offered her perspective on exercise and nutrition and how a toned-down version of 75 Hard might be a better fit for some people who want to get off the New Year’s treadmill and improve their health for life.

What’s so hard about 75 Hard?

75 Hard emphasizes positive goals ― exercise, nutrition and mental activity ― but the intensity might be wrong for you.

Take, for example, the requirement of two 45-minute workouts per day. “Most people can’t even do one 45-minute session a day,” Hummer-Bair said, “let alone two.”

At the same time, there’s no built-in rest period – no time to recover – for two and a half months. For 75 days straight, participants must work out every single day. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week, Hummer-Bair said. Moderate activity, she said, is an exercise that allows you to maintain a conversation with someone while performing it. Working too hard can put undue strain on your body.

“You always need to have some rest days built in,” she said. “It’s imperative to our bodies. If you’re someone who works out a lot and you’re looking for something extra, I would say go ahead and increase to a sixth day. But I would never recommend more than six days a week for anyone.”

Hummer-Bair also would not recommend the diet aspect of the regimen to clients. “I don’t even like the word diet,” she said. Fad diets might work in the short term, but before long the participant falls back into old habits and whatever goals they’d achieved go away.

“If I was going to recommend something, I would definitely not say to do 75 Hard,” she said. “Especially if they’re not active and not following any kind of a diet, because it’s really setting most people up for failure.”

Is there an alternative?

While the intensity of 75 Hard might be too much, the goals are worth exploring. Billed as a “beginner-friendly” version of 75 Hard, a less-intense version called 75 Soft has also been popping up online.

Its basic tenets:

  • Incorporate healthy foods into what you eat, and, if you imbibe, only drink alcohol on social occasions.
  • Drop the number of workouts to one 45-minute session per day, with one day a week for active recovery.
  • Drink three liters of water each day.
  • Read 10 pages of any book each day.

“It’s a little more realistic for people,” Hummer-Bair said. By lowering the temperature a few degrees, you increase your chances of developing longer-lasting habits.

For example, choosing to read 10 pages of any book is helpful because it stimulates brain activity without forcing yourself to read something you might not necessarily want to read, Hummer-Bair said. “It’s just using your brain a little differently than maybe you would at work all day,” she said.

Rather than testing your will power and denying yourself with a stringent diet, the 75 Soft program suggests doing your best and making healthier choices ― something that’s easier for people to manage for the long haul.

What if you’re starting at Level 0? Where should you start if you want to be healthier?

If your doctor says it’s safe for you to get started with exercise, “it’s always important to taper it,” Hummer-Bair said. “Start with a lower dose and build up from there.”

Start with just 15 minutes a day, five days a week. That might not sound like much, but starting with too much too soon can result in injury.

Try it for four weeks. “It helps you build up the strength and the stamina for where you want to go,” she said. Then build up to 20 minutes, 25 minutes and 30 minutes, five days a week.

Hummer-Bair suggests cardiovascular exercise as a good place to start. Walk. Ride a bike. Use an elliptical machine. “Those are movements we’re used to already,” she said, and that can also prevent injury.

“Adding strength training is important, but it’s not as important when we’re first starting,” she said. Once you’re comfortable with the cardiovascular exercise, start adding in the strength training. But that should only be one to two days per week.

Try searching for low-impact or easy body-weight exercises on the internet for ideas to mix it up.

Then, build on it from there.

Going from zero to 60 creates a speed that’s hard to maintain, she said.

You can hurt yourself or burn out and next year find yourself searching for the next challenge that will change your life forever.

Related content:

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The Medical Minute: 75 Hard, 75 Soft and how to keep your fitness resolutions (2024)


What counts as exercise for 75 Hard? ›

The type of workout doesn't matter. You can run, lift weights, do a cross-training workout, go for a walk, or even do yoga. As long as you're getting up and getting your body moving with the intent to get better, it counts.

What are the 5 critical tasks of 75 Hard? ›

Rules of the 75 Hard Program
  • Follow a diet. ...
  • Complete two 45-minute workouts, one of which must be outdoors.
  • Take a progress picture.
  • Drink 1 gallon of water.
  • Read 10 pages of a book (audiobooks not included).
May 14, 2024

What is the 75 soft exercise? ›

Gallagher outlines the “rules” of the 75 Soft in his viral TikTok: Eat well and only drink on social occasions. Train for 45 minutes every day, 75 days without a day off, and one day for active recovery every week. Drink three liters of water a day.

What is a good diet for 75 Hard? ›

Incorporate sources like chicken, turkey, fish, lean cuts of beef, tofu, and legumes into your meals. These protein-rich foods aid in repairing your muscles after strenuous workouts. Aim for a serving size of 3-4 ounces per meal to meet your protein needs.

Can I drink coffee on 75 Hard? ›

Is coffee allowed? Yes, but be sure you account for any creamer/sugar you use. Liquid calories are still calories.

Does walking count as workout 75 Hard? ›

Here how 75 Hard works: For 75 days straight, you must: Exercise twice a day for 45 minutes each session. (Note: A walk counts.)

How do I prepare for the 75 Soft challenge? ›

  1. Stick to a diet of your choice – no alcohol, no 'cheat meals'.
  2. Do two 45-minute workouts a day – one of them must be outside.
  3. Drink a gallon of water a day.
  4. Read ten pages of a self-development non-fiction book every day.
  5. Take a progress picture of your body every day.
Mar 30, 2024

How to succeed at 75 Soft? ›

The rules of the 75 Soft Challenge

Eat well and only consume alcohol during social occasions. Work out for 45 minutes per day with one day of active recovery each week. (Think: going for a long walk, stretching, doing a gentle hike, foam rolling your sore muscles, etc.) Drink three liters of water each day.

What are the six rules of 75 Hard? ›

Rules of 75 Hard
  • Stick to a diet. ...
  • Drink a gallon of water every day.
  • No cheat meals or alcohol for the full 75 days consecutively.
  • Exercise twice a day for 45 minutes each time, with at least one session happening outside.
  • Read 10 pages of a book every day. ...
  • Take a progress picture every day.
Jan 4, 2024

Do you workout every day on 75 Hard? ›

75 Hard is a transformative mental toughness program.” 75 Hard requires six commitments you must complete every day for 75 days. Two 45-minute workouts. One must be outside.

Is 75 Hard good for beginners? ›

Just because 75 Hard is not ideal for beginners, a modified version of the popular challenge could provide the same discipline-oriented habits and healthy routines.

What not to eat on 75 Hard? ›

It is advisable to avoid added sugars and highly processed foods. Keto Diet: A low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet can be beneficial for weight loss and mental clarity. However, it can be challenging to maintain this diet for a period of 75 days.

Can you have fruit on 75 Hard? ›

Sample 75 Hard Diet Meal Plan

Here are seven full days of meals to try and modify, created by Ehsani. Each day includes a nourishing combo of fruits, veggies, carbs, and even snacks and sweets to enjoy. Modify the plan as you like, and repeat throughout the 75-day challenge.

Can you eat sugar on 75 Hard? ›

75 Hard Challenge Rules

There are six main rules for 75 Hard. Follow a diet: The diet can be anything you choose, whether it's Whole30, vegetarian, plant-based, pescatarian, gluten-free, Paleo, no added sugar — you choose, but there has to be a "physical improvement" in mind.

What qualifies as exercise? ›

From pushing a lawn mower, to taking a dance class, to walking or biking to the store – these types of activities and more count. As long as you're doing aerobic physical activities at a moderate- or vigorous-intensity, they count toward meeting the aerobic guideline.

Can both workouts be outside 75 Hard? ›

Complete two 45-minute workouts a day, one of which is outside. Rain or shine, 75 Hard requires one 45-minute workout in the morning, and one 45-minute workout in the afternoon. It's up to you which workout is outside, but the rules state one must be outdoors, explains D'Orazio.

Can you do one long workout for 75 Hard? ›

75 Hard requires six commitments you must complete every day for 75 days. Two 45-minute workouts. One must be outside. Adhering to a diet.

Does walking count as exercise? ›

Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. Sometimes overlooked as a form of exercise, walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier. You do not have to walk for hours.

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