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 one
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 make sure your main meal of the day is balanced, to bring full health benefits.
The ideal meal is one where half of your plate contains starchy food, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, couscous, bread or quinoa. Although this is your challenge for this week, you should look to making this a permanent change.
Eating a balanced meal is important all the time. If you're trying to lose weight, it isn't healthy to cut out whole food groups from your diet. Instead, eat a balanced meal choosing low-fat or low-calorie options where appropriate.
Benefits of carbs
High-carb, or starchy, foods provide energy, which boosts our brain and muscles. Many starchy foods also contain fibre, which can help to prevent constipation and protect the bowel from disease. Starchy food is filling and helps to control appetite, particularly if it contains wholegrains.
The best way to eat carbohydrates:
Start the day with cereal or toast every morning.
Sandwiches or soup containing potatoes, lentils or beans make a great lunch.
In the evening, rice, pasta or noodles should take up around half your plate with a smaller portion of meat, fish or a vegetarian alternative.
Some people believe starchy foods are fattening, but this isn't true. Carbohydrate and protein each contain less than half the calories as the equivalent amount of fat - four calories per gram compared with nine calories per gram.
Popular low-carb diets increase your intake of protein and fat, which could be harmful in the long run. Both low-carb and high-carb diets give similar results, but studies show that high-carb diets are easier to follow and don't cause unpleasant side effects, such as bad breath. Until scientists fully check out the safety of low-carb and other cult diets, it's best to stick to the tried-and-tested high-carb diets.
By adding another 15 minutes to your walking routine this week, you'll finally achieve the minimum amount of activity recommended to safeguard health. There's also an exercise to tone your waist.
Your aim this week is to add 15 minutes to your 25-minute walk, so you're doing one 40-minute session. If you prefer, you can split this into two 20-minute walks.
You should be walking for 30 minutes on four other days of the week. Most of these can be two walks of 15 minutes, but try to do at least one continuous 30-minute session.
Your week could look like this:
|2 x 15-minute walks
||1 x 30-
|2 x 15-minute walks
||2 x 15-minute walk
||2 x 20-minute walks|
OR 1 x 40-minute walk
By the end of this week, you'll have joined the third of the British public that does the recommended minimum amount of activity needed to safeguard health - 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on at least five days of the week.
You should find that you can now walk faster while still being able to hold a conversation. This happens because your stronger, healthier heart is able to pump more blood with every beat, a sure sign of improved fitness.
The final exercise challenge of the first programme is a relaxing back exercise, designed to keep your back mobile and tone the muscles of your waist.
Do it every day, as well as the other four exercises. It's great to do just before bed.
Lie on your back with your legs raised. Bend them at the knees, so your calves are parallel with the floor. Hold a cushion or pillow between your knees and stretch your arms out to the side.
Drop your knees to the right, keeping your shoulders on the floor and your abdominal muscles contracted. Take a breath and bring your knees back to centre using the muscles at the side of your waist and ensuring your lower back stays on the floor. Drop your legs to the left and return. Repeat five times on each side, breathing deeply throughout.
Keep going. There are many more benefits to be gained from slightly increasing the amount of exercise you do, as well as from upping the intensity of some of your workouts. You can learn all about that in programme two.
In the meantime, improve your fitness even further by making sure you're as active as possible during your weekly routine. You can do this by:
walking the dog
mopping or vacuuming
clearing up the house
playing with the children
carrying heavy items
walking up and down stairs
running errands on foot or by bike
cleaning the car