We all make excuses from time to time to justify our actions, or lack of them, and particularly when it comes to the minefield of diet and exercise. There's so much information and misinformation out there, so read on to cut through the facts and the fiction.
Fact: Exercise takes time
Unfortunate though it is, to improve your health and maintain your fitness, you have to invest time and effort. You are simply not going to get a six-pack by eating six packs of Tim-Tams while sitting on the lounge. Deal with it.
The good news is that there are stealth ways to introduce exercise into your life. Walk, run or cycle into work (you have to get there somehow), take a gym class at lunchtime (more fun than that big bowl of pasta), walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift, walk to the shops instead of taking the car. Though you'll reap more benefits from going hard, any physical activity is better than none so get moving!
Fiction: You can't exercise as you get older
This is fundamentally nonsense. Keeping fit and active as you age will keep you living longer, and will also keep you looking younger. Regular weight-bearing exercise helps to ward off osteoporosis, maintain good mental health and help cope with symptoms of the menopause. As our bodies age, too, we need less fuel to keep us going: physical activity can help to keep our waistlines trim and our hearts healthy.
If you don't feel comfortable pounding the streets in an attempt to emulate Paula Radcliffe, try gentler forms of exercise. Swimming, aqua aerobics, pilates and yoga are all great ways of maintaining your health with less impact to muscles and joints. Or join a bushwalking club, or investigate Scottish country dancing lessons whatever it is, just do it, and round out your other interests at the same time.
Fact: Mums find it hard to exercise
It's a bit of a triple whammy really: first you're pregnant, then you're recovering from the birth, and then your baby (or babies) takes up all your time. How could you possibly exercise? Well, you're wrong. Get into the habit of exercising while pregnant: a light walk or a swim is not going to stress you or the baby, and will probably make you feel better. Check out classes that are specifically for pregnant women, whether they be in yoga, pilates or even weights.
Of course, no one is expecting you to do lunges and sit-ups while giving birth or even shortly afterwards, but it possible to fit activity into an already busy life. Go for a walk or a jog with the buggy (older kids can come too!), take the children to the pool for some swim tuition, take a rounders set to the beach or set up an informal game of touch footy. Go for a family bike ride or walk the dog. Or, if you simply want some "me time", find a gym that offers creche facilities, or pool together with a group of other mums and take it in turns to babysit while the rest of you get out and get active. You can do it? Oh yes you can.
Fiction: Weight training makes you bulk up
Body builders don't just look at a barbell to get those sorts of muscles: it takes months and years of lifting increasing weights, and to think that you'll buck this trend is nothing short of naïve. To get toned and trim, introduce weights into your programme and carry out repetitions of weights that challenge your muscles. If you're not sure how much is too much, ask at the gym where there are always staff on hand to help.
Ironically, weight training is a good way of making yourself look slimmer. Judicious use of certain techniques and machines can elongate muscles and provide definition to legs that are bulky from cardio activities such as cycling, running and elliptical machines.
Fiction: Gyms are just for weight training
Most gyms will have a weights studio or two, true, and weight training can play an important part in a balanced exercise programme. But most gyms will offer a whole host of different activities that cater for a range of interests and, yes, abilities. Check out class timetables on gym websites for inspiration of what to go to: most will offer spin (or studio cycling), aerobics, step classes, yoga and a range of Les Mills classes such as Body Attack, Body Combat or Body Pump. There will also be a cardio theatre with treadmills, rowing machines, elliptical machines, bikes and steppers. Go on, bite that bullet and find a beginner's class in something that takes your fancy.
Fiction: I can't afford to exercise
You can afford to get in your car and drive it to the supermarket, right? Walk instead and save yourself the petrol money. When was the last time you paid an entry fee to the beach? Everyone can afford to exercise: you don't need to go to high-tech gyms and employ the personal trainers to the stars to get fitter and stronger. Take your lunch to work instead of buying it, and you'll be amazed how much cash you can save to put towards other things. Recycle your water bottle instead of buying a new one every day. Skip that morning coffee. You don't have to do all of these things, but if you do some of them you'll soon be able to afford that decent pair of runners, a skipping rope, a new swimming costume or even shock horror that personal trainer, after all.