I am writing this week’s column from Abu Dhabi where I have been working with one of my clients, an oil company. Sitting in my room overlooking the beautiful Corniche, I am aware the ambient temperature outside is over 48 degrees Celsius and my thoughts turn to the local difficulty of ensuring physical fitness in such extremes of temperature.

Whatever country you live in, or wherever you go on holiday, chances are that sticking to a calorie-controlled eating regime as a way of life has maybe not been the first on your agenda. You eat two or three meals a day and tell yourself that there is plenty of time to address the issue next week, next month — or next year! In the meantime, your waist measurements increase.

So this could be the optimum time for you to get into the swing of eating healthy, exercising regularly and disciplining yourself into cutting down the fat and sugar intake in addition to reducing your portion sizes at each meal — plus starting a daily exercise maintenance programme.

Exercise not only improves your general fitness and overall strength, stamina and suppleness, it also has additional benefits. Self-esteem is increased and sleep patterns improve — showing that exercise brings measurable results to both the body and the mind.

The key benefits can be summarised as follows:

* Exercise improves cardiovascular function by strengthening the heart, causing greater elasticity of the blood vessels, increasing oxygen throughout the body, and lowers the blood levels of harmful fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides.

* It provides a physical outlet for negative emotions such as frustration, anger and irritability, thereby promoting a more positive mood and outlook. Moreover, it improves the mood by producing positive biochemical changes in the body and brain, as well as reducing the amount of ‘fight or flight’ hormones the body releases in response to stress.

The body also releases greater amounts of endorphins during exercise — the powerful, pain-relieving, mood-elevating chemicals in the brain, which are often lacking in people who are depressed.

* Exercise is also an excellent distraction from stressful events and circumstances, and it is thought stress itself poses significantly less danger to the overall health of people who are physically fit. This is because their heart and circulation are able to work harder for longer periods and, being physically stronger, they are less susceptible to musculoskeletal injury.

Exercise will therefore keep the body functioning properly, help you feel relaxed and refreshed, promote deep, restful sleep and is a good stress management technique, because it:

• Reduces muscle tension and uses up the adrenaline and energy released by the ‘fight or flight’ response;

• Makes the body stronger and better able to cope with the debilitating effects of stress;

• Increases energy and stamina;

• Maintains self-image, appearance, and tends to control weight; and

• Helps to clear the mind of worrying thoughts.

Feeling fit increases the overall feeling of well-being, and a commitment to exercising will increase feelings of control and self-respect. If you are considering regular exercise, the following points are important to consider:

• Physical exercise is an excellent way of getting the necessary relief and increasing your coping resources — but you will need to make time for it.

• The choice of exercise is yours. Do something that suits you and fits in easily with your daily life.

• Begin with an exercise that you enjoy. Find a regime that is interesting, challenging and satisfying, and one that preferably also brings you into contact with other people.

• Twenty games of squash or 15 aerobic workouts are unnecessary and can even be dangerous.

It takes as little as three 20-minute sessions per week to increase your physical fitness and help to combat the adverse effects of stress. But it is recommended that if you are not used to exercising, you should visit your doctor before embarking on any programme.

The value of exercising cannot be over-emphasised. Problems appear less important when involved in physical pursuits.

Wait no longer — eat an apple instead of an ice cream or a pizza — lose weight, feel good and look great. Now that sounds like a great idea to me. What about you?

Key points

* Start a healthy lifestyle - today.

* Increase fitness, mental acuity and self-esteem.

* Be fit, look and feel great.