Get an early start on fitness

Exercise at any time is always good for you, but you’ll get better results if you tumble out of bed and get going.

Researchers in North Carolina have discovered that those who work-out early not only burn calories ahead of the daily intake of food, but spike their metabolism for up to 14 hours. Plus, a 45-minute pre-breakfast run will help you burn an extra 190 calories – because there are no sugars or treats to get in the way of a good session at the gym or on the trails.

And talking of trails, go canine and get yourself a dog. Offer to take a neighbor’s pooch out or borrow a relative’s pet. Man’s best friend loves the early mornings when the smells are fresh and nature’s waking up to a new day, and a good walk or a run will set you up for the day. The bigger the dog, the more you’ll get out of a power walk or a run – especially if you let Rover take the lead.

You should also consider what you put into your body after a work-out. Don’t pile back the calories you’ve just lost, but make sure you have a healthy breakfast that sets you up for the rest of the day.

Nutritionists suggest women in particular should aim for a 700-calorie first meal of the day. This helps them kill off the hunger hormone ghrelin, which if coupled with a good lunch, should keep the snack attacks at bay, and leave you with plenty of energy left for an evening out or a good walk after work.

And don’t believe all the negatives about a good cup of Joe. Coffee will not only keep you energized, but a shot of caffeine will also help your body burn a few extra calories while you work – often for up to three hours at a time, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Keep your lunch early as well and look for menu items that include dill or basil as these contain kaempferol, which is another metabolism-boosting secret soldier, which attacks the thyroid hormones. An early lunch will then lead to an early dinner allowing the body to power through until bedtime without a calorie wasted.

Runny eggs OK during pregnancy

Here’s some good news for pregnant women out there, the runny egg is back on the menu. For around 30 years expectant ladies in Britain have been warned against cracking into undercooked eggs and advised to avoid hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise and mousse.

However, anyone yearning for a runny boiled egg to dip your toast soldiers into will be happy to know a year-long review conducted by government approved scientists has determined that the risk of contracting salmonella from a British egg is “very low”.

Salmonella is caused by bacteria living in hens and can be very serious in pregnancy, increasing the risk of miscarriage or premature labor. In some cases it can also be fatal for toddlers or older people.

The advice now being issued is that pregnant women, toddlers and elderly people can enjoy soft yolks from eggs bearing the British Lion kitemark on the shell. It is reassuring to know that 90 per cent of the eggs produced in the UK do carry this stamp of approval.

“The Working Group is in agreement that there has been a major reduction in the microbiological risk from Salmonella in UK shell eggs from hens since the 2001 report,” states the report by the British Government’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

“The very low risk level means that eggs produced under the Lion Code, or produced under demonstrably equivalent comprehensive schemes, can be served raw or lightly cooked to all groups in society, including those that are more vulnerable to infection, in both domestic and commercial settings, including care homes and hospitals.

“The group’s view is that this is especially the case for those eggs produced under the Lion Code Scheme, which comprises a suite of measures including: vaccination, a cool chain from farm to retail outlets, enhanced testing for Salmonella, improved farm hygiene, better rodent control, independent auditing, date stamping on the eggs and traceability.”

However, those individuals previously deemed to be at risk have been warned that eating runny eggs from cafes or restaurants should be avoided as they can’t guarantee the eggs will have the kitemark.

The British government first issued warnings about eating eggs following a salmonella scare in 1988, when everyone was told to only eat thoroughly cooked eggs. A decade later the advice was relaxed and aimed at groups deemed a greater risk, such as pregnant women, toddlers, those with long-term illnesses and elderly people.

Nutritionists have welcomed the news, explaining eggs offer a vital source of high quality protein and Vitamin D which are beneficial during pregnancy.

Nine in 10 toddlers aren’t active enough

New figures have revealed more than nine out of 10 toddlers are not doing enough exercise to stay healthy.

Just nine per cent of children aged between two and four are getting the advisable three hours of physical activity per day. The benefits of being active include improving bone health and supporting brain development, while also helping social and mental skills to develop.

Now experts are asking the Government to come up with new ways of supporting more exercise for children.

The British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health (BHFNC), based at Loughborough University, are asking politicians to include stipulations for more exercise in policies – encouraging young children at nursery and in their communities to be given more opportunities to stay active.

“This manifesto outlines how we can create an environment for our children that encourages them and stimulates them to be active,” Elaine McNish, director of the BHFNC, said. “This manifesto is a call to policy makers to ensure that early years settings are supported to create active environments.

“We know that active children are more likely to become active adults so it’s vitally important to get it right at the beginning to give children opportunities to play from a young age and develop a lifelong love of being active.”

With obesity proving an increasingly difficult problem to solve among adults, it is believed that encouraging activity from a very young age may help prevent weight problems as the children get older.

“We know that physical activity is an important component of a healthy lifestyle for everyone and the under-fives are no different,” Lisa Young, project manager for prevention and behaviour change at the British Heart Foundation, added.

“Developing a love of being active from a young age is important as we know active children become active adults, and active adults are healthier adults.”

Want a toned tummy? Laugh more!

It’s long been suggested that laughter is the best medicine, and now it seems the old adage is actually true. According to scientists, a good fit of the giggles burns as many calories as a brisk walk – that’s up to 120 per hour. Don’t feel you have to walk around laughing like a loon though, as even just some low-key chuckling can burn around 20 calories an hour.

If that’s not enough to encourage you to get your jolly on how about this – laughing also works out the internal obliques, the group of stomach muscles which are essential for the much-coveted six pack. In fact, a good giggle has been found to activate them even more than a set of stomach crunches.

If you want to get the most out of your mirth, you need to find something really funny. Only an intense form of uncontrollable laughter will burn 120 calories an hour, dubbed the sort which makes you roll on the floor unable to breathe. Hearty laughs can cut around 100 calories an hour – which is nothing to be sniffed at.

On top of all this, giggling improves blood flow in the body which means it’s a bit like having a cardiovascular workout.

The findings come courtesy of comedian Dr Helen Pilcher, who has a phD in biology. She was enlisted to complete a survey by comedy TV channel Dave, and she’s suggested that watching funny programs of an evening could improve your overall health.

“This report raises the joyous possibility that watching comedy shows can help you to shape your six pack by targeting internal oblique muscles more effectively than sit-ups,” she explained.

“I definitely felt more toned after watching hours of TV comedies.”

Helen was quick to add that it’s important to be careful about your other habits too – so you’ll only see the benefits of laughing “provided you don’t eat any pies while you watch” the hilarious shows.

Breakthrough for back pain sufferers

Whether it’s just a twinge or so severe you can’t move, back pain is one of the biggest health issues going. Most of us have suffered with it at one point in our lives and it’s a big cause of sick leave, which is why a new study is being hailed as one of the most important in years.

It’s been found that regular exercise is the best way to help with back pain, whether that’s stretching, working on stamina or completing easy exercises to strength the muscles. In fact, people who followed an exercise regime were 35 per cent less likely to complain of the pain when tested over a year.

When people were also taught how to do things like lift heavy objects safely, the number rose to 45 per cent. That result is so staggering that experts have suggested if there was a drug which produced the same outcome, it would be pushed around the world.

Lower back pain effects four out of five people at some point, with most cases caused by wrenching the area while lifting something without bending the knees properly. Although the discomfort usually clears within a matter of weeks, some find it returns within a year.

A team at the University of Sydney investigated by checking out the findings of 23 surveys involving over 30,000 people. It was discovered that people who’d exercised managed to cut the likelihood of the pain hitting again within 12 months.

“The current evidence suggests that exercise alone or in combination with education is effective for preventing low back pain,” the authors of the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, stated.

“Other interventions, including education alone, back belts, and shoe insoles, do not appear to prevent low back pain.”

It was found that maintaining a level of exercise was also important, so you can’t just do some stretches when you feel a twinge and leave it at that. A concerted effort to exercise the back is needed – if you’re in doubt about what you should be doing, consult an expert at your gym.