By following these tailored diet and fitness programmes, which are based on expert advice, you can improve and protect your physical and mental health
Follow a six-week healthy living plan, tailored to your fitness level, and reap the benefits from day two
Read an explanation of what to expect in programme two of your healthy living plan. Expert, week-by-week advice will help you become more active, burn calories and tone your body.
This week's challenge is to increase the fibre in your diet. It's quite easy to add fibre-rich ingredients to your meals. Find out why this is so important and how to do it below.
Why eat fibre?
Fibre is the name given to the roughage found in wholegrain cereals, peas, beans, vegetables and fruit. It isn't digested in the upper bowel, so travels down to the lower bowel where it has a range of beneficial effects.
These include diluting dietary toxins and providing bulk, which helps prevent constipation and diverticular disease (little hernias in the lower gut, which can get infected).
In addition, there's evidence to suggest that diets high in cereal fibre help protect against bowel (colon) cancer. Fibres from oats, peas and beans are thought to help reduce blood cholesterol levels, guarding against heart disease.
Fibre in your diet
Ideally, you should eat high-fibre foods on most days of the week. There are various easy ways to increase your intake:
Add a handful of nuts, seeds or dried fruits at breakfast.
Swap your current cereal for one high in fibre, such as bran flakes or muesli.
Eat wholegrain bread, rye bread or high-fibre crispbread.
Include beans, peas and lentils in your cooking.
Try a juice or yoghurt with added grains.
Add bran to food by sprinkling it over cereal or using it as a thickener for stews and soups. (Raw fibre soaks up moisture, so if you suffer from constipation, avoid doing this or drink an extra couple of glasses of water to ensure a smooth passage.)
If you want a supplement, psyllium husks can be added to drinks and food.
If you don't have much time to prepare a meal, opt for beans on toast.
Snack ideas include crispbreads, oatcakes, wholemeal bread sandwiches, dried fruit and breakfast cereals.
This week, you'll add five minutes to your two interval sessions and introduce an activity of your choice. There's also a stretch to add to your routine.
Your aim this week is to increase your two interval sessions to 35 minutes, doing five cycles of three minutes' fast walking and two minutes' slow walking.
Keep the other two 30-minute walks steady-paced. You should by now feel able to walk a little faster for the same perceived effort level than you could when you started.
The hour-long walk should be replaced with an activity of your choice.
Your week could look like this:
|1 x 30-minute walk
||1 x 35-minute interval session
||1 x 30-minute walk
||1 x 35-minute interval session
One of the keys to sustainable exercise is finding something you enjoy doing. While walking is a necessity for us all (making it a good workout staple), you may find that it's something else entirely that really lights your fire.
Cycling is the perfect way to discover new places, because it eats up the miles far quicker than being on foot. Although it's easy on your joints, it's no easy ride for your muscles - it works the bottom, hamstrings, hip flexors, thighs, calves and shins, while mountain biking also works your upper body, particularly on the climbs. It's also a great cardiovascular exercise and you can keep going for longer, because of the natural variance in pace (you get a break every time you freewheel down a hill, but have to work twice as hard to get back up).
If you don't have access to a bike, or really prefer to walk, then by all means use the hour to stride out instead.
Whether you're on wheels or on foot, carry some water with you on longer sessions - 60 minutes is long enough to start feeling the effects of dehydration.
Hip and thigh stretch
This stretch targets the front of the hip and thigh, a classically tight area for anyone who spends much of the day sitting down.
Incorporate into your post-workout cool-down, and continue to do the Superman and stair push-up exercises.
1. Place your right foot on a sturdy surface behind you, approximately at knee height.
2. Keep the knee just behind the line of your hip and, without arching the back or tilting the pelvis, bend the left knee until you feel a stretch along the front of the right thigh and hip.
Hold this position for 30 seconds, taking it a little further if the tension eases off. Return to the start position and repeat on the other leg.