For many, the arrival of New Year marks the start of a healthy new lifestyle. Getting fit is always a challenge, but these days there are endless online resources to make it that little bit easier.
When the time comes to make a New Year's resolution, getting fit or losing weight are always the obvious options. After the over-indulgence of Christmas, it seems there's no better time to launch an active and healthy new lifestyle.
Traditionally, getting more exercise and eating healthier foods have been two of the most difficult resolutions to stick with. In the digital age, we're blessed by the internet, which offers countless websites, content and tools to assist us along the way.
The following guide gives just a few examples of the many online resources that can help you get fitter, leaner and healthier by exercising and eating better next year. Good luck!
Exercise and workouts
If your New Year's resolution is to get outdoors and be active, there are websites to help you glean more from the experience. Similarly, if it's indoor fitness you prefer, the internet can help you work out without leaving the house.
A few useful websites for exercise and fitness:
WalkJogRun - Variety is the spice of life, so don't get stuck in a rut with your walking, cycling or running routine. WalkJogRun provides an easy way to map out new routes or browse suggestions from other users in your area. You can search for routes by location, as well as by walking, running or cycling category. The site's completely free to use and even gives you a training diary to keep records of runs you've done. If you've got an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you can also download the WalkJogRun Running Routes app for £2.99.
parkrun UK - One of the best ways to stay motivated and achieve your goals is to join a club, society or team full of people with similar interests and aims. A great resource for runners is parkrun UK, a non-profit organisation that helps organise free weekly 5km runs around the country. Sign-up for free on the website and print out your individual barcode, then that's it. Most events start at 9am on Saturdays and people of all ages and abilities are welcome. It's a great way to mix socially with other runners.
ThinQ Fitness - Video has been a big part of many people's home workout routine for decades. Luckily we've come a long way since VHS first brought the exercise class to our living room. With DVDs it's easier to skip and select certain sections, but on-demand fitness videos give even more flexibility. Websites like ThinQ Fitness allow you to access videos online, whenever and wherever you want to work out. For unlimited access there's a monthly fee of £4.99, but selected content is available free of charge.
Fitness TV - Another website brimming with on-demand video content is Fitness TV. It features a wide range of "channels" which focus on all kinds of home exercise, from Pilates and yoga to dance and aerobics. There are also videos aimed at specific groups, such as bodybuilders, pregnant women or people with limited mobility. Some of the content is free, but full membership costs £5 a month. Fitness TV's instructors include Coleen Rooney's personal trainer, Elise Lindsay, and Ryan Shanahan, who's worked with stars such as Jennifer Aniston.
GenusFIT - When you embark on a "keep fit" lifestyle, it's a good idea to log activities and track your progress. Whether you're training for a marathon or just ironing more vigorously at home, GenusFIT is a free-to-use fitness journal designed to suit everyone. It also acts as an online motivational fitness programme that actively encourages users to set and reach their personal goals. A similar site is DailyBurn, which also provides a range of downloadable apps to help you on your way.
Dieting and weight loss
For lots of us the plan for a healthy lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with the dream of being a bit slimmer. As well as helping to structure our fitness routine, the web can also deliver some inspiration and support as we try to cut back on the calories.
Some helpful sites for to help you lose weight:
WeightWatchers - We all know at least one person who swears by it, so it's no surprise that WeightWatchers is the most widely-followed weight-loss scheme around. Sign-up online for a wealth of resources and advice to help you reach your goal. There's a handy calculator that converts grams and calories into ProPoints, and a diary for you to chart the highs and lows. There's a monthly subscription fee and it costs extra to attend WeightWatchers meetings, but success rates are high and most find it easier than most diets to maintain.
Tesco Diets - These days it seems our supermarkets will sell just about anything you could imagine. So it was only a matter of time before they moved into the weight loss sector too. Tesco Diets provides a convenient way to combine your weekly grocery shop with a customised 7-day diet plan. The website offers support and tips, as well as tools for tracking and monitoring your progress. A full 6-month membership costs less than £50 and users are promised a full refund if they're not 100% satisfied. If you're not a Tesco shopper, maybe try Sainsbury's Diets instead.
SparkPeople - Adopting a strict low-calorie diet is certainly a way to lose weight, but rather than yo-yo between bad habits and borderline starvation, it's much better to embrace a permanent, healthy lifestyle. That's what SparkPeople aims to encourage, and it's completely free for anyone to use. As well as helping people losing weight, it offers tools and support to look at ways of getting more exercise. A lot of what SparkPeople offers is similar to programmes like WeightWatchers, but without the monthly subscription fee. Having said that, there's no single solution that works best for everyone - so it's always worth considering the alternatives.
Biggest Loser - If you've ever seen the hit TV show, you'll know that The Biggest Loser is not a popularity contest in reverse, but actually a competition where participants battle to shed the most pounds. By joining the official Biggest Loser weight loss club online, you too can be whipped into shape by tough-talking personal trainer Richard Callender. When you register for the Fast Track Challenge you get custom-designed workout plans and recipes to keep your nutrition in check. There's also daily feedback from Coach Callender and weekly online meetings where you can meet other "losers" to share the experience with.
The Lunch Box Diet - It's an unusual concept, but according to numerous celebrity endorsements, it works. By following the Lunch Box Diet, you're adopting a "little and often" mentality that replaces three square meals a day with up to six healthy, well-balanced and weighed-out lunchboxes filled with "fat-melting superfoods". The idea is that you'll turbocharge your metabolism and stay full for longer, helping you avoid temptations and preventing the body from storing fat. It doesn't sound like a practical solution for everyone - but with almost 10,000 Facebook 'Likes' there might just be something in it.