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So you have the kit, the exercises and are raring to go. To get the best results from your sessions, follow these top personal trainer tips,...


So you have the kit, the exercises and are raring to go. To get the best results from your sessions, follow these top personal trainer tips, and coach yourself to success. 



• A personal trainer’s first job is to establish your starting point and your fitness and weight-loss goals. So grab some paper and a pen. Now write down today’s date and your measurements – bust, waist, top hip (bony part), lower hip (often the widest part), thigh and upper arm. Be specific (for example, measure your thigh 22cm above your kneecap), so you hit the same spot each time. 

• You can weigh yourself if you prefer, but try not to get on the scales too frequently.

• Now spend a few minutes thinking about a goal. Make this achievable in the near future (for example, I want to drop a dress size in eight weeks, or I want to be able to jog for 20 minutes non-stop).

• Check your weight and measurements every two to four weeks to give your body the time to make changes, and record your progress in your notepad.


Your body quickly adapts to challenges, so to avoid plateauing, increase the intensity or duration of your workouts every six to eight weeks. This could be using a heavier weight for an exercise, adding repetitions or increasing the length of time you exercise.

For cardio work, such as jogging, only make 10 per cent increases in effort at a time to avoid injury


• Hopefully, you look forward to doing your workout, but we all hit times when our enthusiasm dwindles. Try these expert tips to stay on track.

• Stick a photo on the fridge of someone you admire to remind you why you’re on this journey.

• Reward yourself. Arrange a nice meal out with a friend when you’ve completed your first month of training.

• Give yourself pamper points! When you’ve reached a goal, treat yourself to a pamper session, such as a massage, to ease your achy but welltoned muscles!

• Do it for charity – sign up for a charity event, such as a run, cycle, climb or hike. 


Good technique is hugely important as it can help prevent injury. By using correct alignment during exercises (for example, keeping your shoulders back and down), you’ll ensure the exercise hits the muscles intended.

• Follow the step-by-step instructions in this book closely to ensure good form. If possible, use a mirror to check your alignment.

• Always move through each exercise slowly and with control.

• Aim to keep the muscles of your core engaged throughout each move.

• If an exercise feels too hard, reduce the effort or rest a while.

• If it feels too easy, increase the effort, weight or duration.


Follow these pointers to avoid injury and make your workouts as enjoyable as possible.

• Always warm up and cool down

• Stay hydrated. Aim to drink around 500ml of water, two to three hours before exercising, and another 250ml 15 minutes before starting.

• Don’t exercise if you’re not feeling well.

• Many of these exercises are not suitable during pregnancy.

• Avoid training the same muscles with resistance on two consecutive days, as they need time to heal and repair.

Set yourself up for a week of healthy, easy meals with a bit of weekend prep that won’t require hours in the kitchen. Scroll through your so...


Set yourself up for a week of healthy, easy meals with a bit of weekend prep that won’t require hours in the kitchen.

Scroll through your social media feed and you may come across an image of someone’s countertop lined with a week’s worth of meals and snacks, all perfectly portioned into single-serving containers. That is meal prep to the extreme— and go you, if you have the time to do it!

But do you know what also counts as meal prep? Cooking a batch of brown rice for the week. Or grilling extra chicken breasts to top lunch salads. Or chopping up an onion and bell pepper for tomorrow’s chili. Meal prep is not just for a certain type of person—it’s for everyone—and can include anything that cuts down on time and energy spent during the week preparing meals.

Whether you’ve got 15 minutes or an hour to spend in the kitchen on Sunday, any meal-prep will set you up for a more productive and delicious week ahead. 

Make a batch of grains

Having cooked grains like brown rice, quinoa and whole-wheat couscous in the fridge reduces time spent preparing meals later in the week. These cooked grains reheat well or can be eaten cold and are very versatile. Top cooked quinoa with canned beans and vegetables for a quick lunch grain bowl or sauté cooked brown rice with frozen vegetables and seasoning for an easy dinner. You can even prep oatmeal in advance and simply warm it up at breakfast. And because cooking grains requires very little hands-on time, you can have them going while you prep other things. Consider doubling the batch and freezing half for another week.

Cook a versatile protein

Cooked chicken, hard-boiled eggs and roasted tofu all have two things in common—they keep well for a few days in the fridge and can be used in many ways. Pick a protein that can multitask, then build a few meals around it. Cooked chicken breast or thighs can be shredded and tossed with BBQ sauce for quick sandwiches, baked into a healthy casserole or used to bulk up a main-dish salad. Recipe-ready vegan proteins like tofu or cooked lentils can be used in many of the same ways. And hard-boiled eggs make for heartier avocado toast, a quick snack or an easy salad topper.

Get dinner ingredients prepped and ready for cooking

If you’re not up for preparing entire dinners in advance, consider getting a jump start by prepping some of a meal’s ingredients. If a recipe calls for vegetables like carrots, celery and onion, these can be chopped and refrigerated for a few days until you’re ready to cook. Fresh herbs, lettuces and hearty greens like kale will hold up well when washed, dried and properly stored in the fridge. You can even measure out dried herbs and spices and  store in a container to save yourself a dinner-prep step later in the week.

Prep breakfasts or lunches for the week

Easy-to-grab breakfast or lunch options will come in handy whether you’re eating at home or packing food for work—imagine all the time you’ll save on those busy mornings! Stock your freezer with a breakfast option or two, like freezer burritos you can quickly reheat when you’re craving something warm and comforting, or smoothie packs, to cut down on the time it takes to blend up your favorite fruity combo. Or stock the fridge with a week’s worth of satisfying lunches.

Mix up a vinaigrette or sauce

Picking up a bottle of salad dressing is convenient, but whisking your own is easier than you think. Plus, preparing your own dressings means you can control what goes in and what stays out, like excess sodium. And it will take you about five minutes using ingredients you likely have on hand. A classic vinaigrette is perfect for topping green salads throughout the week, but don’t forget about sauces like tahini or peanut dressing, which can be used on grain bowls, in wraps or as dips to make meals more exciting.

Plan out a snack or two 

Grabbing a snack is a lot quicker than making a meal, so you might be wondering why you would bother with the meal prep outlined here. It boils down to convenience and mindful portions. When hunger strikes between meals, you may be tempted to graze on anything in sight, sometimes reaching for foods that actually leave you craving more. Prepping a couple of snacks that contain fiber and protein will provide lasting energy to keep you fueled until your next meal. Be sure to plan for satisfying snacks that you actually enjoy eating!

The bottom line

No matter how much or how little you do, your future self will thank you for doing these prep steps to make for an easier week. Plus, when healthy food is prepped and ready, it makes it so much easier to follow a healthy, balanced diet. Read on for easy-tofollow plans and recipes that maximize prep, plus some healthy-eating inspiration.

Working your heart and lungs doesn’t just make you fitter, it helps you lose weight, beat stress, sleep better and have more energy too. Car...


Working your heart and lungs doesn’t just make you fitter, it helps you lose weight, beat stress, sleep better and have more energy too.

Cardiovascular exercise (often referred to as aerobic exercise) is an essential part of any fitness regime, strengthening the heart, lungs and circulatory system. Your heart is a muscle and will respond to training in the same way as any other muscle, by becoming larger and stronger. Because cardiovascular exercise typically burns a lot of calories, it’s key to weight loss, and the harder you work, the more energy (calories) you’ll burn.


For general good health you need to do a gentle form of cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week (for example, walking to work every day). If you want to lose weight or enhance your fitness, you’ll need to add a few harder sessions every week (see the sample programme).

To continue getting results, make sure you work hard enough. Your body is amazing, and will quickly adapt to any given task. So, for example, as your 3k run starts to feel easier, you’ll need to increase the challenge by running either longer or faster to get the same benefits.


Training at higher intensities will help you burn calories both during and after exercise. To challenge your body, try applying the principles of interval training (using a variety of intensities) to your exercise. For example:

• Warm up, three minutes.

• Walk fast or jog, five minutes, level 6 on the RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion), right.

• Run fast for one minute, level 8.

• Walk/jog, five minutes, level 6.

• Run one minute, level 8.

• Repeat sequence for 30 minutes.

Stock up on healthy foods such as whole-wheat pizza dough, frozen fish and frozen fruits and vegetables—keys to meals in any good plan. When...


Stock up on healthy foods such as whole-wheat pizza dough, frozen fish and frozen fruits and vegetables—keys to meals in any good plan.

When I’m looking for ways to maximize ingredients for meal planning, I turn to my freezer for help. I like to keep it well stocked with a few essential ingredients that have numerous applications for a variety of plans. Plus, filling my freezer with healthy options makes it less enticing to abandon a meal plan in favor of a takeout run. Here are a few of my favorite foods to have on hand.

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

With all the topping combos out there, pizza is one of the easiest healthy dinners to make from the pantry. With the dough on hand, plus some forward planning to make sure it’s thawed in time for dinner, you can have a healthy dinner on the table in no time. (Pizza dough typically needs 24 hours in your fridge to thaw fully.)

Fish Fillets

I’m a huge fan of frozen fish, especially when you can buy fillets in individual, vacuum-sealed packages, which helps to keep them from getting freezer burn. I like to stock up on wild Alaskan salmon and farmed U.S. tilapia. If you buy a big bag of fillets, just pull out what you need the night before you’re going to cook them and put them in the refrigerator. A 5-ounce fillet takes 8 to 10 hours to thaw in the fridge.

Fruits and Vegetables

There are many advantages to having bags of frozen fruit and vegetables on hand. For starters, many of them come already chopped, so that cuts down on prep time. And depending on the season, they can actually be healthier for you. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their prime, which means they have more flavor and nutrients than their outof-season counterparts. And most don’t have added sugar or sodium, like canned fruits and veggies do.

If you thaw frozen fruit and vegetables, drain off any water that has collected in the bag or thaw in a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Depending on the recipe, you may not have to thaw them at all. You can find almost any vegetable and fruit frozen, but I especially like to keep peas, spinach and a vegetable medley or two on hand. For fruit, I like blueberries and strawberries. They’re great for blending into a healthy smoothie for breakfast.

Whole-Grain Bread

Bread spoils easily, especially if it’s kept on the counter in plastic. For a while I avoided buying big loaves of bread because of this, until I discovered that bread and bread products, like wraps and hamburger buns, freeze beautifully. They don’t take much time at all to thaw. If fact, slices of bread go from freezer to toaster without a problem. Or just pull out what you need and let it thaw on the counter or in your fridge. It should only need an hour or two (depending on the temperature) to be ready to use.

Precooked Chicken

Chicken is versatile, packed with protein and easy to make—the ultimate dinner saver. Having some precooked chicken stashed away in the freezer is essential when you need to get a healthy dinner on the table in a pinch. You can use grilled chicken breasts to top salads or roasted chicken to stir into soups, or toss shredded chicken into a quick casserole.


Nuts are full of heart-healthy fats (especially walnuts, which have omega-3s), so I try to have them around as much as possible. They are great for baking, topping a salad or just plain snacking. And as it turns out, storing nuts in the freezer is actually better than storing them in your pantry: it prevents the oils from going rancid. They don’t take long to thaw—just 10 minutes or so on the counter and you’re ready to go.

Shredded Cheese

Even though I use cheese a lot in cooking, I used to inevitably end up with loose ends of forgotten blocks getting moldy in my fridge. Now I shred what I don’t use and freeze it. This works best with solid cheeses like Cheddar and Monterey Jack. When I need just a little bit (to top a salad or make quesadillas, for example), it’s there. It thaws almost instantly, and the texture and flavor remain unchanged.

Keep these ingredients on hand so you can make a delicious, nutritious meal every night of the week. Life is busy, but dinner doesn’t have t...


Keep these ingredients on hand so you can make a delicious, nutritious meal every night of the week. Life is busy, but dinner doesn’t have to be. A well-stocked pantry is the best way to ensure you’ll have everything you need to make a healthy and flavorful dinner every night, even during the busiest weeks, when stopping at the grocery store just isn’t realistic. A combination of classic pantry staples (such as canned tomatoes, chicken broth and canned beans) and flavor-boosting convenience items (such as herb mixes, soy sauce and jarred pesto) is key to keeping your kitchen dinner-ready. No need for expensive takeout when you have what you need to make a healthy dinner at home.

This list includes many of the items you need to prepare healthy recipes, plus a few other ingredients that will make impromptu meals easier and more delicious. If you’re building a healthy pantry from scratch, start with the basics, and slowly expand your pantry as you try new recipes and experiment with new cooking techniques.

Don’t have a large kitchen to stock? You can hone this list to go-to foods, the ones you are most likely to use again and again in meals. This way, you can stock a smaller kitchen pantry cabinet without overwhelming your limited space.

Oils, Vinegars and Condiments

Oils, vinegars and condiments are the backbone of many recipes. They’re necessary for quick marinades, salad dressings, pan sauces and more. For a cook with an eye toward healthy ingredients, this collection of pantry staples helps you swap out convenience foods that are often filled with too much sodium, added sugar, and other unnecessary ingredients. (Bottled salad dressing, we mean you.)

A collection of oils is particularly important for home cooks. Some oils, like extra-virgin olive oil, are best used in uncooked dishes, such as salad dressings, or brushed on chicken and fish after cooking. (Olive oil has a low smoke point and can burn in a hot pan or grill.) Meanwhile, canola oil is a high-quality oil that can tolerate high temps. Flavorful nut and seed oils are next on the list, for when you’re expanding your pantry; they add unique flavor to salad dressings and stir-fries.


• Extra-virgin olive oil

• Canola or grapeseed oil

• Unsalted butter

• Mayonnaise (olive-oil mayo has less saturated fat)

• White, red-wine, white-wine and cider vinegars

• Hot sauce

• Dijon mustard

• Ketchup

• Flavorful nut and seed oils, such as toasted sesame oil and walnut oil

• Balsamic and rice-wine vinegars

• Reduced-sodium soy sauce

• Fish sauce

• Hoisin sauce

• Chile-garlic sauce

• Curry paste

• Kalamata olives and green olives

• Capers

• Barbecue sauce

• Worcestershire sauce


A seasoning cabinet or drawer can quickly begin to burst at the seams. Unique spice mixes you used just once sit stale beside the cumin and coriander, which do get a fair share of use in a variety of recipes, from Mexican and Southeast Asian dishes to beef stews and more. Paring down to the basics will help you save space and make sure you’re utilizing everything before the flavors fade.

This seasonings list also includes foods that make up the foundations of many recipes: the aromatics. These are the first things you throw in the pot (with canola oil) to start simmering— onions and garlic, for example. They add a depth of flavor and heft to many dishes, even fast ones, so keeping them on hand can help you turn basic tomato soup into a deeply-flavored tomato soup that’s good enough to serve to guests!


•Salt, including kosher salt, coarse sea salt and fine salt

•Black peppercorns


•Fresh garlic

•Dried herbs: bay leaves, dried thyme leaves, dried oregano, dried herb seasoning blends

•Spices: chili powder, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, curry powder, dry mustard, paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, turmeric, garlic powder

•Citrus: lemons, limes, oranges (The zest is as valuable as the juice.)

•Granulated sugar

•Brown sugar 


•Fresh ginger (store in the freezer for longer life)

•Anchovies or anchovy paste for flavoring pasta sauces and salad dressings

•Dried herbs: dill, crumbled dried sage, tarragon

•Spices: allspice (whole berries or ground), caraway seeds, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground ginger, nutmeg, za’atar

•Pure maple syrup

•Unsweetened cocoa powder, natural and/or Dutch-processed

•Bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips

Canned and Bottled Goods

While your first inclination may be otherwise, using canned foods can be essential to some  healthy-cooking recipes. Canned tomatoes, for example, can be used in soups and stews, but they’re also a boon to many quick and healthy skillet meals and one-pot pastas. Cooking dried beans takes time and effort (though it’s worth it if you can manage it), but canned beans make black bean tacos or a tomato-bean shakshuka happen in a hurry.


•Canned tomatoes, tomato paste

•No-salt-added diced tomatoes

•Unsalted chicken broth, beef broth and/or vegetable broth

•Canned beans: cannellini beans, great northern beans, chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans

•Clam juice

•Light coconut milk

•Canned tuna (chunk light) and salmon

Grains and Legumes

Beans, rice, whole grains and lentils can be added to a plethora of dishes for instant protein and filling fiber. They also store well, so you can keep them on hand for a considerable time, and they go from season to season—in soups and stews in the winter and in light grain sides in spring and summer. You can use some of these pantry staples to turn basic chicken breasts into crispy oven-fried pieces or leftover steak into a hearty burrito bowl or to make black-bean patties in a pinch.


•Whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour

•All-purpose flour

•Assorted whole-wheat pastas

•Brown rice and instant brown rice

•Rolled oats

•Whole-wheat breadcrumbs

•panko breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat

•Pearl barley, quick-cooking barley

•Whole-wheat couscous


•Dried lentils

•Yellow cornmeal

•Dried beans (black, cannellini, chickpeas)


Nuts, Seeds and Fruits

You may think these kitchen pantry staples are best suited for snacks and trail mixes, but a cook with an eye toward healthy eating knows they can be used in everything from salads and grain bowls to muffins, quick breads and quick coatings for proteins. Most fresh nuts and seeds should be stored in the fridge or freezer to keep their oils from turning rancid.





•Dry-roasted unsalted peanuts

•Natural peanut butter


•Pine nuts

•Sesame seeds


•Natural almond butter

•Assorted dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes, cherries, cranberries, dates, figs and raisins

Refrigerator Basics

We use the term kitchen pantry to refer to your cold storage, as well as dry storage. These ingredients should be kept stocked in your fridge, as they can quickly and easily be used for many fast dinners. Yogurt, for example, is a great snack, but it can be a dipping sauce for fish or pork or turned into a dressing for falafel or shawarma. Eggs are staples for many dishes, but they can star in fast omelets and frittatas too.


•Milk or soy milk

•Unsweetened coconut or oat milk beverage

•Plain strained yogurt, such as Greek-style

•Sour cream

•Parmesan cheese and/or Romano cheese

•Sharp Cheddar cheese

•Eggs (large)

•Orange juice

•Blue cheese

•Dry white wine

•Water-packed tofu

How to Organize a Pantry 

These tips will help you cut down on food waste, save money and keep your kitchen well organized.


First clean out the space you intend to use for your kitchen pantry, whether it is a stand-alone closet or a smaller kitchen pantry cabinet. The same goes for your fridge and freezer. Toss outdated items and anything you know you’ll never use again.


Sell-by, expiration and best-by dates aren’t actually useful for the purposes of knowing whether a food item is good or not. Each means something entirely different, and relying solely on them can lead to some serious food waste. Instead, use your intuition: if the food looks and smells fresh, keep it if you’ll use it.


What’s left? As you take stock of what you have,  organize ingredients in a system that feels intuitive to you, whether that’s grouping grains in one bin and oils and vinegars in another, or giving areas a “theme,” such as proteins, grains or baking. You’re not married to this system forever, but it’s a good way to help you assess what you have and what you need to buy.


A food pantry is only as useful as the items you have on hand. Replace items as you use them so your pantry stays stocked. As you cook new recipes that require 

beyond-the-basic ingredients, you’ll naturally expand your pantry to help you get to that well-stocked state.


When you add new staples, be sure to place them behind or below the old ones. This way, you can use up what remains before opening a new bag, bottle or box.


If your pantry or cabinet shelves are deep, consider putting tall items in the back so they are visible over the shorter items. Unfortunately, foods  that are shoved into the back of the pantry tend to be lost—and forgotten. Revolving trays can help with this issue as well. Put a few on deep shelves so you can rotate your stock and see everything at once.


You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars filling out your kitchen pantry during one trip to the grocery store. Start with the basics and expand your pantry as you expand your cooking skill set. Over time, you’ll find it easier to make meals from scratch using what you have on hand.

From a stroll in the park to a day-long hike over rough terrain, the right summer walking shoes will help you put your best foot forward. Wh...


From a stroll in the park to a day-long hike over rough terrain, the right summer walking shoes will help you put your best foot forward. Whether you’re after reliable shoes to get your 10,000 steps in or want to take to the hills for a full-on adventure, knowing what to look for when buying hiking footwear will help you walk further in comfort and stay injury free. So, what should you consider when choosing walking shoes for summer?


First up, bear in mind the locations you’ll be walking in. Sandy coastal trails need very different footwear to rocky  inclines. Walking footwear is made with a specific environment in mind, so considerations such as sole stiffness or how high up the ankle they go will vary depending on the type of terrain and the conditions you’ll be walking in.

For this reason, it’s worth getting a little geeky about walking shoes. Lugs, the studs on the outsole, vary in depth from 2-3mm to 8mm or more. Generally, the deeper they are, the better the traction on mud or loose  rock, while the greater surface area of wider lugs give better grip on flat rocks. You need to take into account the gap between lugs, too – the narrower the space, the more likely it is that mud and stones will get trapped, making your boots feel heavier.

Even in summer you’ll appreciate a waterproof membrane such as GoreTex, whether for the unpredictable UK weather or making the shoes useful for more than one season, but check they’re breathable too, or your feet will feel uncomfortable and sweaty. The support you need – as well as the  responsiveness, cushioning and energy return – largely comes from the midsole. Essentially, the stiffer the midsole, the more suited it is to tougher terrains.


Shoes that don’t fit well can leave you with sore feet and, potentially, create muscle imbalances higher up in your body. You generally need to go up a half or full size in walking shoes, especially if you’re wearing dedicated walking socks, too, but it’s worth  bearing in mind the following tips:

• Make sure there’s a finger’s-width space between your big toe and the front of the shoe, and your heel should fit snuggly with no slipping as you walk or you’ll end up with blisters on your Achilles heel. To test this out, edge your foot forwards in the boot, then try to slip a finger behind the back of your heel – it should only just fit.

• As your feet expand during walks, try shoes on in the late afternoon, as your feet naturally get wider over the course of the day. This will give you a better comparison with how they’ll feel when out walking.

• Don’t forget to wear walking socks when you’re trying shoes on for size. A thick pair of socks makes a considerable difference to the fit of your shoe or boot.

• You could also try an in-store fitting service. Cotswold Outdoor, for example, will measure your feet with a Brannock device, work out where your foot’s flex point is and what sort of arch you have, then make recommendations for the type of shoe you need. 

Should I drink more when exercising in the heat? ‘It’s extremely important to drink more water when you are exercising in hot weather. When ...


Should I drink more when exercising in the heat?

‘It’s extremely important to drink more water when you are exercising in hot weather. When the human body is exposed to hotter than average conditions it challenges the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. This can lead to a multitude of problems, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

‘When exercising in the heat, you tend to sweat more, which leads to you losing more bodily fluid than usual. Staying hydrated is vital as it replaces the bodily fluids you have lost and allows the body to regulate its internal temperature, as well as deliver nutrients to cells and keep organs functioning properly.

‘Hydration can come from a variety of drinks and foods, but water is a great calorie- and sugar-free option to ensure you stay hydrated. Mineral water is a great choice when choosing how to stay hydrated, as it contains electrolytes, which are minerals such as calcium, magnesium and sodium.’.

What’s the best way to exercise in hot weather?

‘When it starts to get hot, do a shorter and slower workout, then your body will slowly begin to adapt by increasing its sweating capacity and reducing  the electrolyte concentration of the sweat to boost your ability to maintain a safe core body temperature.

‘Swap your long run for interval training or circuit training. This type of training will allow you more rest, so that your body can cool down and you can take on extra water. If possible, try to work out in shaded areas, which will offer you more protection from the sun.

‘Listen to your body. If you start to feel extremely tired, lightheaded, disorientated or nauseous, you should stop exercising, grab some water and find somewhere cool to sit.’

What should I wear when in the heat?

‘Always opt for sweat-wicking clothing to stay dry and reduce the chance of chafing. Avoid cotton clothing, as it holds onto moisture and won’t make you feel your best.

‘Try to wear light colours that reflect the sunlight instead of absorbing it. If you’re wearing a vest and shorts, make sure you wear sunscreen to avoid damaging your skin, even if you’re working out in the morning or late evening. For more protection, wear a hat or visor to keep the sun off your face. 

‘It is also important to stay hydrated. You can use a normal water bottle but, if you’re running, you might consider freeing your hands up by using a hydration pack.’

What sunscreen is best for outdoor exercise?

‘It’s important to wear sunscreen during your outdoor workouts to protect your skin. Sunburn not only increases your skin cancer risk, but it can also affect your body’s ability to cool down. Apply a high-factor SPF sunscreen liberally 20 to 30 minutes before exercising in the heat. Make sure you choose a sunscreen that has both UVA and UVB protection.’

How will the hot weather affect my performance?

‘When exercising in a hot climate your body has to work a lot harder, so you will instantly feel that exercise is a lot tougher – this isn’t a time when you’re likely to clock a personal best.

‘Your heart has to beat faster as it sends more blood to your skin. Your body temperature will raise much faster, which is why feeling dizzy and faint can occur. In short, it will feel far more difficult to exercise in the heat, especially if you are a beginner. The key is to do sessions at a more manageable pace, and do drink plenty of water.’

How should I approach exercising in the heat?

‘When it’s really hot, exercise in the morning or evening to avoid the midday heat. If possible, choose shady areas and take time to rest, hydrate and cool down.

‘The heat will affect your workout, so it’s important to listen to your body. It may take a few weeks for your body to acclimatise to the heat, so start slowly with shorter and less intense workouts. As you get used to the heat, you may respond better to it – your body may start sweating earlier to help you cool down and, over time, your heart rate may not rise quite as high.’

Most people head to the sauna for a dose of calm, or maybe to ease a few aches and pains, but if you knew the full extent of their benefits,...


Most people head to the sauna for a dose of calm, or maybe to ease a few aches and pains, but if you knew the full extent of their benefits, you’d probably move in.

Dry heat rooms, used for centuries in Finnish and Swedish communities, have some serious health credentials, including a reduced risk of high blood pressure, improved lung function and proven benefits for cognitive health.

The science-based evidence for heart health has long been established. Indeed, a review of 40 studies involving 3,855 participants in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that regular sauna use reduced the enlarged heart size of people with congestive heart failure, improved arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and cut the risk of sudden death from heart attack by 63 per cent. Research shows they’re good for cognitive health, too, with one study reporting a 66 per cent reduction in dementia risk.

When it comes to fitness, saunas are good news – improving oxygen saturation during exercise and increasing workout time post heat session, even boosting the function of your powerhouse cells, the  mitochondria, by 28 per cent. Add to this proven benefits for pain relief and their undoubted usefulness for post-workout recovery and you can see visiting the sauna is a valuable addition to your training plan.


Often housed in small wood-panelled cabins, saunas provide dry heat at between 65°C to 90°C. The intense heat exposure raises your skin and core body temperature, and your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) kicks in along with other mechanisms, increasing heart rate, blood flow and sweating in an attempt to regulate your temperature. Your muscles relax, you feel more alert and less sensitive to pain. On a cellular level, the effects include reduced oxidative stress and inflammation. It’s also believed the heat stress your body experiences in a sauna improves its functionality and/or tolerance to more severe challenges in a similar way to exercising. Finally, adding essential oils into the air brings additional benefits – eucalyptus, for example, can help clear the airways, while pine can leave you feeling refreshed and energised.

Are ultra-processed foods secretly sabotaging your diet goals? It’s time to study the labels on your favourite health-food brands. Oat milk....


Are ultra-processed foods secretly sabotaging your diet goals? It’s time to study the labels on your favourite health-food brands. Oat milk. Cereal. Hummus. Plant-based burgers… Hands up whose weekly groceries list goes something like this? Yup, ours too. But did you know these wholesome-sounding staples are often ultra-processed foods (UPFs), linked to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease? According to latest figures, even if you avoid eating junk food such as sugary drinks and snacks, your diet is likely to be shockingly high in UPFs – including cleverly-marketed ‘health’ foods many of us eat daily.

We’re now consuming more than 50 per cent of our energy from UPFs. While their convenience and palatability is tempting, research shows this is having a potentially devastating impact on our health. UPFs tend to produce peaks and dips in blood sugar which are bad for cardiovascular health and conditions such as type-2 diabetes.

Want to protect your health or lose a few pounds? Stop counting calories and start checking the ingredients in your favourite products, say a growing number of nutrition experts. Here’s what you need to know. 


Much of our Western diet is processed to some extent. Fish is canned, peas are frozen, milk is  turned into yoghurt, wheat is milled into flour. These processes are harmless and can improve food’s digestibility and nutritional value. For instance, did you know canned tomatoes are richer in antioxidant lycopene than raw ones? Most food undergoes some form of processing which isn’t a cause for concern – think cheese, sourdough bread and tofu. ‘These foods have been partially altered by adding sugar, oil, fat, salt and other culinary ingredients.’.

Problems start when food is engineered to create novel flavours and textures. Chewy chocolate cookies, doughy supermarket bread, tongue-tingling tangy tortilla chips… think of your favourite moreish foods and you can guarantee they’re UPFs. Ultra-processed foods have undergone industrial processing to become hyper-palatable,. ‘They typically contain a lot of added salt, sugar, fat and chemical additives. For instance, bread should only have a few ingredients, but white supermarket bread can have a long list of ingredients to increase shelf-life and taste.’

According to the NOVA classification system, common UPFs include reconstituted meats, sausages, salty and sugary snacks, frozen meals, biscuits, ice cream and chocolate. No surprises there. But other UPFs may come as a shock: the almond milk you pour on your cereal, the baked beans or canned soup and sliced bread you grab for lunch, that post-gym smoothie, the pesto you pop on pasta and the fruit yoghurt you have for dessert. And yes, plant-based ready meals, protein drinks and energy bars, too (see Purely plants, below).


Once inside your body, UPFs behave very differently to the wholefoods they’re made from. Not only are they usually higher in calories, fat and sugar, but their structure (or ‘food matrix’) is also altered during processing, meaning they release these nutrients more quickly into your blood which, in turn, disrupts your metabolism.

One example is oats. ‘You could have two types of oatmeal with identical labels but totally different metabolic and long-term responses. Whole oats produce a blunted blood-sugar level response while finely ground ones [found in instant oatmeal] create a big peak in blood sugar followed by a dip, triggering hunger and inflammation.’

Similarly, fruit juices and smoothies trigger a higher blood-sugar rise and fall than   fibre-packed whole fruit. The processing breaks down the original structure of the fruit. ‘Swapping a glass of orange juice for an orange gives you all the benefits of the orange, rather than just the sugar.’


No time to cook from scratch? The long-term health cost of eating processed foods may make you reconsider. According to a study of 77,000 people published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who ate over half their calories from UPFs (meat- or plant-based) were 14 per cent more likely to die over 10 years. A French study of over 100,000 adults, in the British Medical Journal, found people consuming higher levels of UPFs had an increased risk of heart disease. Meanwhile, a second French study found a 10 per cent increase in UPF consumption raised the risk of cancer.

Scientists believe these effects occur because UPFs increase obesity and exposure to potentially carcinogenic chemicals (from additives and processing). But your gut health may also be involved. The ZOE PREDICT study shows a strong link between UPFs and worse long-term health, including detrimental impacts on the gut microbiome. Results revealed a diet rich in processed foods (including baked beans and juices) encouraged bad gut microbes while a minimally processed, plant-based diet led to good microbes, linked to better metabolic health.

Eating processed foods also leaves less room in your diet for protective healthy produce. ‘A diet high in UPFs is more likely to be lower in nutrient-dense foods, fibre and wholefoods,’ she says.


Do you find it hard to shed stubborn pounds despite opting for calorie-controlled meals and snacks? Ironically, they could be the problem. Your body absorbs energy more readily from  low-fibre UPFs than wholefoods. Calories, of course, play a role in weight management but they’re not the be-all and end-all. ‘Very refined ingredients can have a higher caloric availability, meaning the body can access these calories far more easily than the same calories encased in fibre-rich wholefoods.’

UPFs are engineered to hit your ‘bliss spot’ so you eat more of them. Research suggests they may disrupt gut-brain signalling and stimulate appetite. Consumption of UPFs is a real problem for people who want to lose weight. ‘It’s much harder when we’re consuming these energy-dense, tasty foods that are quickly metabolised and impact our hunger and satiety signals, encouraging us to eat more.’

A landmark trial by the US National Institutes of Health compared an ultra-processed diet to a minimally processed one of the same calorie, fat, sugar and micronutrient value. Results showed people on the ultra-processed diet ate 500 more calories a day, leading to an average weight gain of two pounds in two weeks. Blood tests revealed that while on the processed diet, people had lower levels of appetite-suppressing hormones and higher levels of appetite-stimulating hormones.


For anyone wanting to lose weight or improve their diet, I’d encourage them to eat food in its original form. ‘Eat whole apples rather than apple juice, for instance. Minimise UPF consumption and eat a diversity of foods. Thirty plants a week is something we should aim for to improve our gut health.’

Of course, some UPFs are worse than others. While the term “ultra-processed foods” includes foods such as confectionery, fried snacks, cakes and sugary drinks we know we should eat less of, the definition also includes foods that can be part of a healthy, balanced diet, such as sliced wholemeal bread, lower-sugar yoghurts, wholegrain breakfast cereals and baked beans.

Wholegrain UPFs, such as wholegrain breads and breakfast cereals, tend to be healthier than non-wholegrain equivalents, due to their fibre content. Wholegrain bread or cereal still has a poor glucose response but it will be better than white bread.

As always, it’s about balance but, ultimately, minimising UPFs is key to good health. When people cut down on ultraprocessed foods and incorporate more wholefoods rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fibre, they’re likely to see improved gut health, increased energy and mental clarity alongside better sleep and improved wellbeing.