Revival of the fittest

As a nation we're fatter than ever, but joining a gym isn't always necessary
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Exercise rates are down, obesity rates are up - five times the level they were 25 years ago - and the Government is so concerned it is planning to introduce fitness coaches on the NHS. The idea will be for GPs to refer patients for sessions with an NHS approved fitness trainer for advice on exercise, diet, health and lifestyle. Once through the induction, a personalised health regime will be drawn up with advice on daily exercise and dietary improvements.

Exercise rates are down, obesity rates are up - five times the level they were 25 years ago - and the Government is so concerned it is planning to introduce fitness coaches on the NHS. The idea will be for GPs to refer patients for sessions with an NHS approved fitness trainer for advice on exercise, diet, health and lifestyle. Once through the induction, a personalised health regime will be drawn up with advice on daily exercise and dietary improvements.

All well and good, but what about the rest of us who just want to improve our levels of fitness and improve our health: is this possible at home? Yes, says David Marshall, aka the Bodydoctor, and he has the evidence to prove it. "Although I run a gym where people can come and work with a personal trainer, thousands of people over the last 10 years have benefited from my programme by following it independently. I know it works, because I devised it for myself after I injured my knee playing football and put on weight through inactivity. I devised a programme that works through a combination of specific resistance training, cardio-vascular work and diet, and it works effectively within a short time scale."

Chartered physiotherapist Judith Pitt-Brooke agrees that exercise is essential, but you don't need to go to a gym. "Our bodies were designed for action and basically that old adage - use is or lose it - is true. From as early as our mid-twenties we can experience stiffness - which is a good indicator that our bodies are complaining about inactivity - after a long day spent at the computer. We ignore these early warning signs at our peril: they are a precursor to body damage. Even 10 minutes brisk walking every day makes a difference that is noticeable after only two weeks. And what better motivation is there to continue than looking and feeling better?"

David Marshall's Bodydoctor Fitness Programme takes six weeks and, if followed correctly, may help you lose a stone in weight, double your fitness and reduce your waist by five inches, through a series of specific exercise combined with an element of cardio-vascular training and dietary changes. No wonder it has attracted numerous celebrity followers from footballer Rio Ferdinand to supermodel Sophie Dahl.

Our sedentary lifestyles have a lot to answer for and are a direct cause of a variety of health complaints from obesity, and related problems like diabetes and heart disease, to back pain and RSI. "The first step is not to rush out and join a gym and assume this is the answer," says Judith Pitt-Brooke. "But to identify what you want to achieve and take responsibility for it. You can exercise at home if you know what is required and, if you have a back problem, for example, then in almost every case, exercise is the answer - not an excuse for immobility."

Exercise Accessories

Where can you go for advice, and what do you need?

BODY DOCTOR

Bodydoctor by David Marshall (HarperCollins) outlines the Programme with easy to follow photographs and nutritional advice. What is also great are anatomical drawings showing exactly what muscles are targeted by what exercises.

Available for £14, inclusive of postage and packaging, from www.bodydoctor.com, as are videos and DVDs.

HOME PHYSIO DVDS

DVDs for back pain, leg pain, and neck and arm pain contain specific exercises for problem areas. Produced by Judith Pitt-Brooke and available from www.homephysio.com.

GYM BALLS

Gym balls are great for home exercise, providing support while promoting stability and balance. They can also be used for sitting on when working - as long as the gym ball is the right height for your desk, sitting on it is a much more active process.

www.physiosupplies.com

WEIGHTS

Although you can use tins of baked beans, these are a little more aesthetically pleasing and essential for the resistance work necessary to strengthen muscles. The Bodydoctor Training Programme requires work with weights, and every exercise that contracts a muscle is followed by one that stretches it, ensuring a balance.

Handweights, from 0.5kg to 5kg, Reebok Neoprene.

www.totallyfitness.co.uk

MBT SHOES

These shoes are beloved of Pilates teachers and osteopaths alike, as they ensure good posture while working the core muscles of the abdomen.

Walking is an excellent cardio-vascular and weight-bearing exercise, and 10 minutes brisk walking or jogging in these is the equivalent of 30 minutes normally, because they force you to utilise thigh, buttock and stomach muscles in a way that ordinary trainers don't. Also great for cellulite reduction.

www.mbt-uk.com

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