MATT ROBERTS: Should I swap my gym circuits for a HIIT routine? 

Question – I am a regular at the gym and usually do a circuits class once a week which involves doing all sorts of exercises, one after the other. 

Friends tell me I should do high-intensity exercise. I thought I already was! Can you explain? I’m a 46-year-old woman.

Answer – High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves working at a very high intensity for periods of 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a recovery of about three to four times that period.

The high overload on your body is thought to raise metabolism, be better for your heart and lungs and have a greater effect on your body shape than straight constant-pace cardio.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves working at a very high intensity for periods of 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a recovery

The big question is, just how do we know what is defined as HIIT and what is, say, just quite intense exercise? I tell clients to imagine they’re giving a seven or eight out of ten in terms of effort while running, cycling, star-jumping or whatever their HIIT exercise of choice is.

To answer the question, a circuits class usually involves doing one exercise for a minute, then moving to the next. Strictly speaking, this isn’t HIIT because it’s pretty much impossible to sustain a sprint interval for a minute.

But there is nothing to stop you combining circuit training, longer cardio sessions and HIIT training – variety is the spice of life, after all. Make sure you speak to a doctor before embarking on a high-intensity regime, though, if you think you might have a condition that would make it risky.

Q – As a 60-year-old mother of two grown-up children, I’ve recently joined the gym. I now do aerobics three days a week, and yoga and Pilates the other two days. I’ve read a lot about women my age increasing protein intake by drinking special ‘shakes’, especially if we’re active. Should I be doing this?

A – We all know the term ‘a balanced diet’. But what does it really mean? Well, roughly speaking it’s making sure your meals contain a mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, all of which are essential for a healthy body.

In my experience, among women – especially from middle age on – protein is a nutrient that is consumed too little. Protein is important for many reasons, not least because it’s needed for maintaining our muscles. 

Many slimmers avoiding rich sources of protein, red meat and dairy, which is the wrong thing to do. For a start, it’s far more likely that alcohol and eating too much overall, especially high-calorie foods like takeaways, is what needs to be avoided.

Without protein, muscle mass can suffer. We need lean muscle tissue to be strong and active as it is the part of the body that best burns calories. As a rule of thumb, middle-aged women should aim to consume about 1.6g of protein per kilo of body weight per day. 

The average British woman weighs 11 stone – or roughly 70kg. That means aiming for 112g of protein a day. A chicken breast can contain between 30g and 50g of protein, while a large salmon fillet could deliver up to 80g of protein. An egg will give you 13g, and a small tub of Greek yogurt about 9g.

So what about those powdered mixes that you add to water or milk? Well, if you are body-building or think your diet is poor, you may need a supplement. But be warned, the shakes can be high in calories. And if you’re consuming many more calories than you burn, you’ll put on weight.

So before you choose a high-protein supplement, do the maths and ask yourself: Do you really need it?

Youngsters want fun… not Fitbits 

Given the headlines over the past few weeks about British children being treated for computer-game addiction, I’m all for thinking of new strategies that will inspire youngsters to be more active.

But I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the new Fitbit fitness tracker aimed at youngsters.

The Fitbit Ace Kids Activity Tracker does all the things the grown-up version does – it counts steps, distance covered and heart rate and monitors sleep.

But do these gadgets really bring about a lasting change? I’m unconvinced.

Lots of my clients seem to get bored with theirs.

Instead of shelling out £80 for this flashy device, why not try to find something fun and active to do with your children – and possibly help them find a new healthy hobby in the process.

  • Bonkers ‘wellness’ class of the week: laughter yoga. It was launched by Brazilian teacher Daniela da Silva, who noticed some students breaking into spontaneous laughter during certain poses. Now she gets her Coventry class to go ‘ha ha ha, ho ho ho’ before they end up chuckling away for real – for up to 15 minutes. Why? She says it’s a psychological boost, and helps the breathing. While I’m not a massive yoga devotee, I have tried it, and always find myself laughing at myself when holding certain poses. Exercise should be taken seriously, but with a serious amount of relaxation and fun within that too. So if laughing yoga makes you feel good and get some benefit, go for it and have a bit of fun.

You don’t get a body like this by walking the dog

The secret to supermodel Elle Macpherson’s perfectly sculpted figure? A spot of yoga and dog walking, apparently.

Elle, 54, below, whose abs are so defined they are practically drawn on, told viewers of ITV’s This Morning of the diet and fitness regime that keeps her looking flawless, below.

Elle also credits her plant-based diet and three litres of water daily for her physique. Increasing intake of plant-based foods and regular, low-intensity exercise is great for the body and the mind, but that alone is unlikely to produce Elle’s body. 

She’s been lucky with her DNA – and her well- defined core, arm and leg muscles are evidence of years of intense toning exercises. As with all celebrity diet and fitness advice; take it with a pinch of salt!