Haven't got the time to hit the gym? This gadget is your own personal trainer
Katie Wright puts the Activ5 device to the test
If strength training is a fitness priority for you, but you struggle to find time to attend gym classes or find the weights room intimidating, there's a small but mighty gadget that could be the answer to your problem.
The Activ5 is a tech device about the size of your palm, that hooks up to an app and coaches you through isometric exercises that don't require weights or equipment.
Featuring more than 100 workouts that last just five minutes each, it offers an easy way to incorporate training throughout the day or on the go.
But is it effective? I gave it a go to find out...
How does the Activ5 work?
Set up is simple. I turn on the device, download Activ5 app (it's free, available for iPhone and Android) and sync the two via Bluetooth.
The way the technology works is, before beginning each exercise you have to calibrate it, setting your 'max power' by holding the pose as hard as you can for 10 seconds.
For example, the 'shoulder press' involves putting the Activ5 on top of your left fist (with your elbow bent) then pushing down with your right hand to activate your shoulder, arm and core muscles.
After squeezing as hard as I can, I reach 15lb max power. I squeeze the device twice again to start the exercise and a wavy line appears on the screen with a dashed line and intermittent dots showing the level I have to reach across the 30 seconds.
I repeat the process with the rest of the 18 exercises in the 'biceps, back & beyond' set and my workout is complete.
Is it easy to use?
Each workout is designed to be five minutes long, but it does take a bit longer to begin with when setting the max power each time, and getting the hang of each position.
Because isometric exercises are intentionally subtle, there are times I think I must be doing it wrong because I can't feel much - but when I recalibrate each exercise I can see that I'm improving as my max power goes up.
On the other hand, there are certain moves that are a killer (in a good way). Like the straight leg crunch, where you lie down, place the device under your lower back and hold a low sit-up until your abs hurt like hell.
You can 'favourite' the exercises you like best in order to curate a custom workout (or avoid the moves you hate).
As someone who does a lot of exercise classes, I find the Activ5 didn't replace my gym visits at home, but where it really came into its own is when I was on holiday.
While staying at a villa in Greece, where it was too hot and hilly to go running and there wasn't a gym on site, I did a couple of workouts in the mornings and evenings so I didn't feel guilty about abandoning my usual fitness routine.
Because there's a whole section for working out while sitting down, you could even use the Activ5 at your desk or on plane or train journeys.
At home or in hotel rooms you can do what psychologists call 'reward bundling' - doing something fun (eg watching TV) while doing something less pleasant (working out) - and because of the 'gamified' process, you're more likely to hit your targets than when you're watching a YouTube fitness video and end up giving up halfway through.
If you're a frequent flyer and don't want to miss out on your usual gym sessions, this little gadget would make a great travel companion.
Activ5, £119.95, Amazon