Intense exercise won’t help you lose weight

Surely if you workout a lot you should begin to lose weight, right? Well, no, it turns out that this theory is not entirely true. Scientists at the University of Copenhagen conducted an experiment on overweight Danish men. The participants were divided into three groups. The first group were told not to change either their diet or their exercise regime. The second group were asked not to change their diet, but were asked to do moderate exercise that burnt 300 calories on almost a daily basis. The third and final group were asked not to change their diet but to perform vigorous exercise that burnt 600 calories on almost a daily basis.

The study lasted for 13 weeks and revealed some intriguing results. Those men who had not changed their diet or their exercise regime had no change to their weight, yet the men who performed the more intense workouts lost, on average, two pounds less than those men who performed the moderate exercise regime. It is thought that this difference between weight loss came about because those men that worked out harder and for longer ate more to compensate. It is also thought that those men who worked out harder were more inactive in those hours when they were not exercising compared to the men who worked out less.

Therefore if you want to lose weight according to this study you should exercise moderately, so that you do not overeat. You should also try to keep active throughout the day.

Exercise can damage your relationships

Workouts and intense exercise can really take its toll on relationships. Not only do intense and regular training routines eat into the amount of time you can dedicate to seeing your partner, these routines also eat into your energy resources, so that by the time you do end up going on ‘date night’ you’re too tired to properly commit to the evening.

As more and more people dedicate themselves to sporting challenges, or strive to lead healthy, active lifestyles, this issue for couples becomes more and more common. Time once spent with loved ones is now spent at the gym. Yet for the partners of these exercise enthusiasts it’s a difficult issue to tackle because surely exercising is a good thing? Can they really begrudge their partner a challenge? If you’re spending more time in your training kit than you are at home make sure you save some space in your hectic schedule for your guy or girl – you never know, you might even perform better after a regular rest.

Exercise can make you gain weight

The pressure to fit in workouts around already busy schedules can cause lots of people to rise early and head out for a pre-breakfast training session. Although this might make you feel great, if you sacrifice your sleep for your fitness fix you could end up gaining weight.

This is because a lack of sleep leads to an increased appetite and your cravings for fatty foods and carbohydrates will also shoot up. A lack of sleep is also thought to slow down the metabolism, which means that you will burn fewer calories than you would have done had you slept for longer. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory suggests that even a few days of sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. The study found that when participants had just five hours sleep over five days they gained, on average, two pounds. So, if you want to maintain or lose weight make sure you get enough rest and don’t sacrifice sleep for training sessions.

Overweight people live longer

If you thought exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight would help you to live longer, you might just be mistaken. At least you will be if you believe the findings that were revealed from a recent study, which was conducted by US university researchers and the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers examined 97 studies that involved a combined total of 2.88 million people and found that those people who were moderately overweight and had a BMI between 25 and 30 were six per cent less likely to die of a premature death compared to those people who were not overweight. Although interesting, the issue with this study is the fact that the conclusions are based upon BMI, which is not an accurate measurement of body fatness. So, although the study suggests that overweight people live longer it would be unwise to assume that being overweight is good for you. Instead it simply might indicate that being overweight is perhaps a little less unhealthy than originally thought.

Marathon running damages your heart

If you’ve run a marathon before you know that once you’ve done one you always want to do another. However, research suggests that training for a marathon, or taking part in other extreme endurance exercise, could cause serious damage to your heart.

One study, which researchers told to the European Health Journal, demonstrated that of their 40 participants who had extreme exercise habits the majority had stretched heart muscles as a result of their exercise routines. The researchers also suggested that this stretching of the heart could lead to heart problems, such as arrhythmia, in the future. Similarly, a study published in PLoS One examined six exercise studies and found that 7 per cent of the 1,687 participants had a greater risk of heart disease and that this increase of risk was the result of exercise.

So, what should you do if you love extreme endurance exercise? Well, in the journal Heart two US cardiologists suggest that you limit your vigorous exercise to between 30 and 50 minutes per day.

There’s nothing like putting pen to paper to instill you with a sense of optimism, anticipation and excitement about your goals or aspirations. The act of writing something down always makes it more real, more concrete than merely thinking it — which is why we’re always extolling the virtues of training journals and food diaries!

Benefits of diary writing

Professor James Pennebaker, from the University of Texas in Austin, has carried out numerous experiments on the health benefits of writing expressively (nope, we’re not talking about a chronological record of events) and has shown that regular writing can bolster the immune system, help you recover from traumatic events more successfully and ease stress and depression. In his research, people who had survived traumatic events who wrote about their experiences for 20 minutes per day, three to four times a week, visited the doctor half as much as those who didn’t write. The journal writers demonstrated a more vigorous antibody response to bacteria and viruses and produced less cortisol, a stress hormone.

Regular writing can bolster the immune system, help you recover from traumatic events more successfully and ease stress and depression.

In another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis and asthma who wrote about life events they’d found highly stressful experienced a significant reduction in symptoms of their diseases. And it’s not all just about ‘feeling better’. Students who were asked to write about emotional topics in their journals showed improved grades in one research project, while absentee rates went down in a group of university staff members after they wrote about their emotions and experiences. Experts believe this may be because sitting down and writing about the thoughts and emotions cramming your head force you to reflect on them and put them in some kind of order, so that you experience ‘mastery’ of the situation.

Don’t dwell on the past

But not all experts recommend dwelling on traumatic events. In fact, research at Glasgow Caledonian University found that people who were regular journal-keepers suffered more headaches, digestive problems and sleeplessness than non-writers — particularly those who consistently churned over their problems rather than opting for a single, cathartic outpouring. However, there was no way of telling whether the journal keepers simply had more traumas to cope with in the first place. And according to further research by James Pennebaker, suppression of emotions, particularly negative ones, reduces the immune system response, while expressing them enhances it.

Your own diary

The key to successful journal writing is to use it for your own needs. If you want to write about past hurts, disappointments or traumas then do so. If you’d rather write about the here and now, day-to-day dilemmas and frustrations — or your aspirations for the year ahead — do that. The beauty of a diary is that it is for you and you alone.

Which brings us to the question, should you read your own diary? Some experts believe that reading through what you’ve written is useful, helping you to spot repetitive patterns of thought or behavior, and helping you make sense of situations and put them in perspective. But others feel that merely committing the words to paper is what is important — not reflecting on them afterwards. As for me, an avid journal writer for more than 15 years, there are still some entries I have never once read, and perhaps never will. But for the most part, I find reading what I’ve written fascinating, life-affirming and, quite often, entertaining. I’ve seen, done, felt and experienced all that — and I’m still sane! Happy writing.

Diary tips from the top

James Pennebaker has written a book on the benefits of journal writing: Opening Up — the healing power of expressing emotions.

Here are his first-timer diary keeper’s tips:

  • Find a time and place to write where you won’t be disturbed. Ideally, pick a time at the end of your work day or before you go to bed.
  • Promise yourself that you will write for a minimum of 15 minutes a day at least three or four consecutive days.
  • Once you begin writing, write continuously. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar.
  • Don’t censor what you write. Write just for yourself.

If you are faced with ‘blank page syndrome’ and don’t know where to start, try writing about:

  • Something that you are thinking or worrying about too much
  • Something that you have dreamed recently
  • Something that you have been avoiding
  • The best thing that happened today

Look in a mirror

When you think you are ugly and want to hide your head in a paper bag you are unlikely to feel confident. However, if you are having an “ugly day” (or one of those “ugly years”), take advice from psychologist Nikki Owen: ‘When your eyes take in something that pleases you, your brain’s reward system is activated and you will see an almost instant improvement on your face’. So, the next time you look in the mirror focus on areas that you like about yourself. You’ll be feeling smoking within minutes ladies and gents.

Gay best friend

If you’re a woman, it turns out that self-confidence is all about the gay best friend. A study conducted by researchers from Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia, Canada and the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada found that women who have a gay friend have better self-esteem when it comes to the way they look and their body confidence. Although the researchers weren’t entirely sure why women felt better about their bodies when they had a gay friend, some claim it is because gay men are far more generous when it comes to compliments and are skilled at giving ego massages.


Although pulling on your smelly training shoes and donning some not-so-flattering lycra doesn’t sound much fun when you’re curled up in bed or sprawled out on the sofa watching re-runs of your favourite TV show, a study seen in the Journal of Health Psychology says that even if you exercise for a little amount, on a regular basis, your mood improves.Therefore even if you don’t do a really intense workout, you can still reap the positive benefits of exercise and experience the perks of the mood boosting endorphins that exercise gives us.

Straighten up

When you were little you were constantly nagged by your parents and teachers to stand tall, stop slouching and sit straight. Does anyone do the same for you now? Although it would be a little annoying to have someone constantly telling you off for having bad posture, it turns out that it might make you believe in your own abilities a lot more. A recent study found that people who sat up straight and wrote down how qualified they were for a job believed in their abilities far more than those people who did the same activity, but who slumped over their desks. If you’re reading this now, sit up and improve your posture.


Sometimes we hang out with people we don’t really like. People that moan, whine and bully their way through life, bringing everyone around them down into their pit of misery and self-loathing. Remember, you are under no obligation to see anyone who makes you feel bad. Although you shouldn’t abandon your friends and family when they are having a hard time, ask yourself how long they have been acting in this way and if it is really necessary. Are they being mean and belittling you? If you decide they’re being unfair and are affecting your confidence start to cancel on them and associate with people that reinforce your confidence and don’t bring you down.

Be a traveller

Why is it that when you travel everything seems interesting, fresh and intriguing? Everything seems better when you are away and you feel better too. Although we haven’t conducted any grand studies into this phenomenon, we have a strong suspicion that it’s all about the mindset. Being somewhere new does something to us that makes us relax, unwind and become less inhibited. Although getting away from the humdrum of your home life and routine helps you to do all of these things, it’s only your mindset that has actually changed. After all, you are still you. If you can try to adopt this travelling way of thinking in day-to-day life you’ll feel calmer, more relaxed and far more confident.

Think about love

Feeling loved is one of the best ways to boost your confidence, but what do you do if there’s no one around to tell you how much they care for you? Simple; just remember a time when you were shown a lot of love. Think of those birthdays when you were showered with gifts, or when you left your old job and were told how much you’d be missed. When you were ill or had a baby did you receive lots of concerned visitors and get sent lots of get well cards? Remembering moments like these will instantly boost your confidence because it shows that people love and care about you.

Nutritional facts

Calories 447.1 (kcal)
Protein 14 (g)
Carbs 40.7 (g)
Fat 25.2 (g)


  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g ground almonds

Also the almonds in this cake provide good, cholesterol-reducing monounsaturated fats and also contain significant amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E, plus magnesium and potassium. Yes, they are basically good for you. It is also an incredibly quick cake to make and good enough to serve up as a desert with a dollop of cream or some fruit.


  1. Turn the oven on to 180°C and grease the cake tin – use a 23cm (9 inch) spring form cake tin or flan dish.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to soft peak stage with an electric whisk — they will become white and will form little ‘droopy’ peaks.
  3. Put the egg yolks, lemon zest and sugar into a separate bowl and whisk until pale and creamy.
  4. Stir in the almonds and the sherry.
  5. Fold in the egg whites, a little at a time, and then pour the mixture into the cake tin.
  6. Cook in the oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, until golden. If you poke a skewer into the middle of the cake, it should come out clean. Cool in the tin, on a wire rack.
  7. Decorate with icing sugar.

Nutritional facts

Calories 173.3 (kcal)
Protein 1.5 (g)
Carbs 39.8 (g)
Fat 1.1 (g)


    • 200ml apple juice
    • 150ml water

For the crunchy granola:

  • 200g unrefined porridge oats
  • 250g mixed nuts
  • 100g mixed dried fruit, chopped


For the spiced Autumn fruits salad:

  1. Put all the ingredients except the apple into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer for about 10 minutes, adding the apple after about 6 minutes, until the dried fruit becomes plump and the fresh fruit is tender, but not too soft.
  3. Spoon off the fruit into a bowl and boil the syrup at a high heat for 2 minutes. Pour the reduced syrup over the fruit and leave it to cool. You can serve it warm or cold. The compote keeps well (and the flavors improve) for up to a week in the fridge.
  4. Serve in a nice glass bowl, with a good spoonful of Greek yogurt and some crunchy granola sprinkled over the top.

For the crunchy granola:

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Mix together the oats and nuts (whatever you fancy — I like flaked almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts and pistachios. Pecans and hazelnuts are good too …) with the spices and the honey, oil and water.
  3. Spread the mixture evenly onto a large baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown, turning the mixture around every 10 minutes or so for it to brown evenly.
  5. Leave to cool and crisp up and add the dried fruit if using (raisins, crystalised ginger, dried apricots, figs and or or dates (optional).
  6. Store in an airtight container.

Nutritional facts

Calories 177.8 (kcal)
Protein 3.8 (g)
Carbs 39.5 (g)
Fat 0.6 (g)


  • 150ml skimmed milk


  1. Crush the ice cubes in the blender and then add the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. If the smoothie is too thick, add a little more cold milk.

Nutritional facts

Calories 52.4 (kcal)
Protein 1 (g)
Carbs 11.3 (g)
Fat 0.4 (g)


  • 50g (1 small) cooked beetroot
  • 150ml apple juice
  • 100ml water


  1. Chop the carrot and the beetroot into small cubes and put in a blender with the liquid and the ice cubes.
  2. Blend for a minute. Add the watercress and blend again until the mixture is really smooth.
  3. Add a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Strain the juice through a tea strainer or colander.

Nutritional facts

Calories 86.1 (kcal)
Protein 2.1 (g)
Carbs 20.5 (g)
Fat 0.5 (g)



  1. De-seed the melon (gala, charentais, honeydew — works well with any type except watermelon) and scoop out the flesh.
  2. Put the melon, ginger and the ice cubes into a blender and whiz until smooth.
  3. Serve in a glass with a sprig of mint and a long piece of ginger as a stirrer.

Nutritional facts

Calories 207.5 (kcal)
Protein 5.5 (g)
Carbs 20.6 (g)
Fat 11.7 (g)


  • 20g softened butter


  1. Heat the grill so that it is hot.
  2. Place the tomatoes stem up and cut them in half horizontally.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the butter, cayenne, Worcester sauce, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper.
  4. Put the tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut side up, and pop a knob of butter mixture on each tomato half. Pour over any excess juice.
  5. Sprinkle the sugar over the tomatoes.
  6. Place under the grill for about 10 minutes until golden.
  7. Meanwhile make your toast.
  8. Place four tomato halves onto each slice of toast. Scrape any excess juices from the pan and pour over the tomatoes. Eat immediately.

Nutritional facts

Calories 209.9 (kcal)
Protein 14.3 (g)
Carbs 6.3 (g)
Fat 14.2 (g)


  • 300g fresh, young leaf spinach leaves


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F).
  2. Wash the spinach and put it into a saucepan with a knob of butter, a pinch of salt, some pepper and some grated nutmeg. Cover the pan and cook on a medium heat, stirring once or twice, until the spinach is wilted. Drain off any excess water.
  3. Put the spinach into two ramekins (small glazed serving bowls), make a well in the center and carefully break an egg into each one.
  4. Put a dollop of crème fraîche on top of the egg and then grate over some parmesan.
  5. Pop the two ramekins into the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the egg white starts to turn white and looks like it is just cooked. It keeps cooking for some time after it has come out of the oven and if you cook it too much the egg will overcook and go rubbery.
  6. Grind some black pepper over the eggs and serve immediately with some hot wholemeal or granary toast.