Hardly a day goes by without another worrying report on the growing numbers of obese people in the UK today.

As many as two thirds of British men and more than half of all British women are now overweight and one in five is obese.

This indicates most diets aren't working, with only one in 100 people who try to slim managing to keep the weight off permanently.

Despite this high level of failure, 34 million Britons spent more than £10 billion in pursuit of the perfect body during the past year.

Recent reports also suggest overweight people may soon be asked to sign agreements to take more exercise and eat more healthily in return for their GPs providing treatment.

Dr Paula Franklin, one of BUPA Insurance doctors in Sussex, said: "Most diets don't result in permanent weight loss.

"Going on a diet is ineffective in the long term and can be unhealthy - traditionally slimming is about dieting, deprivation and failure.

"Ingredients and calories on convenience food packs can be confusing and deceptive. Low-fat foods often don't declare they are high in sugar, for instance.

"As obvious as it may seem, it's best to lose weight gradually by increasing the amount of activity in your everyday life and adopting healthier eating habits, rather than following a formulaic diet or eating pre-packed, low-calorie meals."

BUPA has put together some exercise tips on how to burn off those calories this summer and the first is not to underestimate the benefits of housework. Try some vigorous vacuuming, or run up and downstairs with things which need to be put away.

Washing and waxing the car can use up to 300 calories an hour and washing your windows another 200, while getting down to the ironing you have been ignoring can burn up a further 120 calories.

Gardening is excellent for strengthening muscles, especially the legs, arms and stomach. Mowing is the best calorie burner - you could use up to 500 calories an hour doing this, 400 calories for a stint of digging and as many as 300 calories weeding.

Start the gardening with some simple warm-up exercises and, unless you are fit, it is important to take a break after 20 minutes to make sure you do not suffer any injuries.

Take some stretching breaks during prolonged stints in the garden. It is also important to bend the knees and keep the back straight when lifting.

Small amounts of moderate exercise like regular walking can greatly benefit overall fitness, from easing stress to lowering blood pressure.

Try walking to the shops rather than taking the car and carry the shopping home - the extra weight of the bags will help tone arms and backs.

The most successful way to take exercise is to choose an activity you enjoy, that way you are far more likely to stick to it.

If not the gym, perhaps a dance class or a team sport.

But people sometimes need help.

Julia Armstrong from Eastbourne has been coaching for more than 25 years. Originally working in the field of sport, health and fitness, her work has evolved into all aspects of life.

An athlete herself, she competed at international level during the Eighties and continues to run as a veteran.

Her aim is to help people learn about themselves. She said: "Taking the time to look back, to think about why and how you made the choices you did, to assess why you responded to events and situations as you did, to review your life from multiple perspectives, can be extremely beneficial.

"It means you can go forward with more awareness and a greater degree of self-knowledge, recognising the choices you make each day, however small, are the ones that shape your future.

"Self knowledge also means you can communicate who you are to others, which improves your relationships and the ability to manage yourself in any situation.

"You will be able to enhance your existing skills and unlock and realise your existing strengths. Ultimately, you will be able to fulfil your potential in any area you choose."

MS Armstrong can be contacted on 01323 649642.

Tips on weight loss are available from the Bupa website on www.bupa.co.uk