What is the 75 Hard Challenge going viral, and what are the rules?

 (James Manning / PA)
(James Manning / PA)

The 75 Hard Challenge “is the only programme that can permanently change your life”: so reads the description on the creator’s website.

Back in 2019, Andy Frisella thought up the challenge which has attracted more than two billion views to date and and has been completed by over a million people, according to Frisella. Ever since he announced it, people have come to discover the trend on TikTok, dedicating plenty of time to the challenge and in preparation of it.

Some participants argue the programme has worked wonders. Others simply contend it may not be as effective as it appears while they question the science behind it.

But, firstly, what is the intriguing challenge that has taken social media by storm?

The 75 Hard Challenge

There are six non-negotiable rules to follow throughout the challenge. Participants must:

  • Stick to a diet, any diet

  • Consume absolutely no alcohol or ‘cheat meals’

  • Complete two 45-minute workouts per day (one of them has to be outside, no matter the weather)

  • Drink 4.5 litres of water each day

  • Take a daily progress photo

  • Read 10 pages of inspirational non-fiction each day

And, of course, it will come as little surprise to find that the challenge can only be marked completed after 75 consecutive days. The only caveat is that, should participants miss a day, it restarts from day one.

But scores of participants have come forward to share the unfiltered reality of completing it. Journalist Billie Bhatia, who documented her progress earlier this year for her social media followers, remarked on Instagram halfway through: “I am shooketh to my core that I have kept this up for over a month. SHOOKETH.”

“Let’s talk some realities though: being freelance means I can work this challenge around my schedule – and what I have learnt is that 75 Hard is actually a full time job. Be under no illusion, most other things are dropping by the wayside. I feel like I’m scrabbling to keep up with everything, and the only person I have to take care of is me. There is NO WAY I could do this if I was in full-time office employment, had children (in fact had any other responsibility than keeping myself fed and watered) – so let’s remove that comparison.“All the money I might have saved on not drinking I have spent on my water bill. Because I am either washing my body, my hair, or my gym kit CONSTANTLY.

However, Bhatia also noted the feel-good aspects of the challenge: “I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym this week and actually really enjoyed it... [and] having friends and family join me on the workouts is so great because it really makes that time feel like social time rather than ticking off a chore I need to complete.”

What the experts say

Despite Frisella prefacing mention of the challenge on his website with the fact that those intending to start it should consult their physician or other health care professionals ahead of the challenge, the controversial programme has still faced criticism. Individuals have noted that the lifestyle change appears an extreme one to carry out for such a limited duration, posing the question of what happens once the 75 days are up?

Others take issue with the fact there is a lack of scientific evidence to back up the effectiveness of the fitness aspect. The NHS recommends the appropriate time for adults to perform vigorous exercise is 75 minutes per week, or 150 minutes of moderate exercise for optimal health.

However, this does not take account of populations of people with hypertension and diabetes, where recommendations would likely change. Therefore, the blanket recommendation of 90 minutes per day (in two 45-minute slots) lacks scientific basis. There is also no indication of how hard the individual should be working.

Psychiatrist Dr Muhammad Mujtaba told Healthline: “During everyday life, you have different activities to do. Not every person can manage the workout twice a day. It is normal to [get sick] and in such conditions you should avoid intense workouts.

“The 75 Hard programme says that, if you miss one rule, then you have to start it again. In terms of psychology, experts consider such programmes a pressure on mental health.… Being a psychiatrist, my experience says that you can achieve your desired weight by following flexible programmes that also consist of cheat days.”

Similar trends to follow

Perhaps most similar to the 75 Hard Challenge is the 75 Soft Challenge. In 2021, Ireland-based fitness influencer Stephen Gallagher debuted a less intense version of the programme. “It's like the 75 Hard, but for people who don't have the time for two 45-minute workouts a day,” Gallagher said.

There are four non-negotiable rules some have hailed realistic:

  • Eat well, incorporating more nutritious foods into your diet, and only drink on social occasions

  • Train for 45 minutes every day for 75 days. One day a week is to be active recovery

  • Drink three litres of water a day

  • Read 10 pages of any book a day

In the last year, social media has also seen the rise of fitness challenges such as 12-3-30, or more recently Hyrox, the gruelling workout which has taken flight popularity-wise in London.