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It is well-documented that exercise helps prevent and improve a number of health problems but research also shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and depression.

Exercise can help you to gain confidence, take your mind off worries and help you cope in a healthy way.

The good news is that you don’t have to join a gym or spend ££s on kit. All you need is a pair of supportive trainers and comfortable clothing (ladies – a supportive bra is a must). If indoors, just pop on an uplifting cd and dance as if no-one is watching (they’re not by the way!) Or why not get outdoors. Spring has (officially) arrived and everything is beginning to bud. Just going for a brisk walk around the block for 15 to 30 minutes is a great mood booster. Walking by water has the added benefit of calming your mind too.

Walk, jog, hop skip and jump, borrow a hula-hoop but whatever you do, smile or even laugh for yet another great (and free) mood enhancer.

Whether you’re on your own, with your partner or kids, or gossiping with your best friend just pop on those trainers and step outside. A friendly nod or smile to anyone you meet could also make their day.

Only one cautionary note – if you’re wearing earphones, please ensure you remain aware of the environment.

I hope to see you out and about during the Spring and please don’t forget to smile as we pass each other.

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I am not one who celebrates the New Year or makes resolutions at that time preferring to wait until the time is right for my next challenge. Today is the day. Apparently the third Monday in January is known as Blue Monday but this isn’t something that I subscribe to.

This week is the start of a new 12 week period in my life. After succumbing to the vomiting bug last week, I am now back to ‘normal’ just in time to commence another round of Julia Buckley’s Fat Burn Revolution programme only this time I have a different focus – strength rather than fat loss. I do not need to lose weight and my body composition is now lean so fat loss is no longer my goal. With Julia’s knowledge, agreement and advice I am tweaking the metabolic workouts so instead of 2 sets of 10 reps, I am working towards failure in 4 sets of 5 reps. What does this mean in reality?

Basically I am lifting heavier than before. That’s the difference. Gone are the pretty coloured dumbbells and I am now working with adjustable sets. There’s going to be trial and error but that’s all part of the challenge.

However, all other principles of Julia’s programme still apply. In fact nutrition now plays an even more important part in my diet as I have to ensure sufficient consumption of protein and the inclusion of carbohydrates. I’m not a calorie counter (never have been) and admit to a weakness for cakes and croissants. So my dietary challenge is too eat well, eat healthily and to eat right for my specific aims of gaining strength and defining those lovely muscles that have begun to appear.

My other challenge during this period is that I’m not going to use the usual metrics. I will not step on my bodyfat scales. I will not use the tape measure. My guide is how heavy I lift and how I feel.

I already know that I’m going to feel fit, healthy and fabulous by the end of the twelve weeks but I have an added incentive. On the last day of the programme, 13th April (London Marathon day too by the way), I am going to see Russell Watson in concert in Oxford. So I’ll have a fantastic night out, see one of my favourite performers, probably have a glass of champagne too and know that underneath my gladrags is a fit fifty-something bod.

Oh and I have a birthday this week so champagne and chocolate are definitely on the menu along with a day of pampering! Happy New Year to me

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Do you fancy taking your fitness outside? If the answer is yes, why not consider Nordic Walking?

Starting in January 2014, we will be running a five week taster course in Cookham. Limited spaces are available so please call or email to find out more.

A friend of mine, Jo, will also be running courses in Cox Greeen, Maidenhead so to find out more please contact her on 07867 975165  or via email joannewhitfield11@yahoo.com

Suitable clothing and footwear must be worn. Poles are available to hire from both of us.

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Last Thursday evening I ventured up to London as a guest of the lovely ladies behind Zero Calorie Advent Calendar for their launch party. A fabulous evening – where to begin my recollections?

I met many inspirational ladies some of whom I already ‘knew’ thanks to Twitter, others I hadn’t heard of but soon got to know. All are engaged in spreading the word on how to live healthily and well, many are fitness bloggers, most London based.

We met at LuluLemon’s Covent Garden showroom but soon hit the streets for a run with the guys from Good Gym. After a warm-up run (mostly our voices warming up as we chatted away), we came to Somerset House where we were all put to work in clearing out a room. This is how Good Gym operate – running with a purpose. Tasks completed, in record time I hasten to add, we split into 3 groups according to our ability and set off along the Embankment, over the Millenium Bridge and paused for a group photo with St Paul’s Cathedral as our backdrop 1462966_228633683970748_2130117307_n

Then off we set again, this time running over Blackfriair’s Bridge and back to Covent Garden for our post-run treats of bubbly, water or smoothie. Cue the serious business of the evening.

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Becca, Christine and Mollie explained the concept behind the calendar and introduced some of the sponsors of Zero Calorie Advent Calendar and then Nicola of A Mile in Her Shoes explained why she and her fellow trustees had set up their charity which leads run clubs for homeless women as a way to help these women get back on their feet. Many of us present had donated trainers or kit which will either be distributed to these ladies or sold on eBay to raise funds in order to buy the requisites.

So what is Zero Calorie Advent Calendar I hear you ask? Each day during December a new workout, recipe and health/fitness business offer will be revealed to keep those interested in health and happiness on track during the festive season. So party away but please find time to encompass some exercise.

Amongst chat, networking, laughter and photos we also found time to eat (mostly) healthy snacks and finally left exhilarated with our goodie bags. If the other ladies were like me, they also had a big smile plastered on their face for the journey home.

London, running, good deeds, great ladies – what more could I have asked for a November evening?

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Where has this year disappeared to? October is nearly through and it is now less than 9 weeks to Christmas Day.

Last year three friends put their heads together and came up with a fitness inspired Advent calendar and this year they are back with a fantastic product.

Each day leading up to Christmas, there will be a ‘treat’ for you but all with zero calories. One day a fun workout, the next a Yoga session along with hints, tips and healthy recipes.

Excited? I certainly am. The calendar will be launched next month and I shall report back with relevant details but in the meantime you can follow them on Twitter @ZeroCalAdvent

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We’ve all heard the ‘jokey’ terms – beer belly, muffin top, wine waist etc – but there is some truth in them. What you eat and drink does show up on your body. The additional, but empty and wasted, calories in alcohol will, over time, add inches to your middle and may show in your face too either as jowls or those minute red lines. Eat a diet rich in healthy fruit and vegetables and your skin and hair will show their appreciation as well as your figure being a little more svelte.

I believe in ‘mostly healthy, most of the time’ and do eat chocolate and croissants myself. But, and here’s the key, is small amounts and not as a daily occurrence. I did stop drinking wine (my only tipple) back in May initially as a personal challenge as I was drinking above the recommended units weekly but when that time had finished, I realised that drinking wine was a habit and one I hadn’t missed.  So I stopped. Did that make me a non-drinker? Was I teetotal? In my mind, neither. I had made a personal choice, one that was right for me at that particular time.

Last night, I fancied a small glass of chilled Pinot, so I poured myself one. Sat down on the sofa, took a sip and pulled a face. I didn’t like it! Glass passed to husband (usually drinks red but … ).

Later whilst watching tv, I thought I’d have another taste as previously I’d not long drunk a cup of peppermint tea and wondered if that had made the wine taste ‘off’.  Another sip, same reaction. I really didn’t like the taste. At all.

Back to sparkling water and teas for me.

So, am I really a non-drinker now? I suppose technically and literally, I am as I don’t drink at the moment. Is it a blip? Will my taste buds return and enable me to rediscover the enjoyment of a glass of wine?

What have been the benefits of not drinking? These are difficult to explain. Physically, my waist and belly are slimmer (but that may be down to the exercise programme I’m following). My skin is also clearer (but that may be hormonal). Mentally, I did initially feel a little smug at times refusing alcohol but nobody really cared once my family had got used to me not having a glass in hand. I was pleased that I’d managed to kick a habit but that wasn’t specifically because it was wine, I think I’d feel the same if it was cake or tea or whatever I’d set myself as a challenge.

So two last questions. Am I a teetotaler? No, as I don’t think I will always abstain and I don’t advocate total abstinence. Unless that is your personal decision.

Finally – will my daughters get my stash of champagne? That remains to be seen …………

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