After two weeks of watching Wimbledon and a month of World Cup football, it is no surprise people are being inspired to get fit.

Long summer days and the prospect of holidays on the horizon are also making people think about losing weight before relaxing on the beach.

But health experts are warning people not used to exercise to take things easy.

Jane Edwards, a physiotherapist from Uckfield, says the most important thing about exercise is warming up and cooling down.

She said: "There is absolutely no point thinking you can grab a racquet or go running without preparing yourself first. If your body is not used to exertion, you could do yourself some damage. At the very least, you'll end up with aching muscles the next day.

"Begin with a series of gentle stretches and bends to get the muscles warmed up.

"When you've finished, especially if you are tired and out of breath, don't just throw yourself on to the nearest seat. Repeat some of the exercises you started with and make sure you have cooled down properly."

Mrs Edwards says it is also important not to do too much at once. "People tend to get very keen, go over the top, exhaust or injure themselves and end up regretting the whole thing. If you do that, you won't last more than a couple of days. Start slowly and gradually build up the amount you do."

A warm-up is important whether you are in the gym, going for a gentle run around the park, on the tennis court or taking part in the London to Brighton bike ride.

The warm-up increases blood flow to the muscles and other soft tissues. This is an important factor in avoiding damage to ligaments, muscles and tendons.

Before stretching, start with five to ten minutes light activity such as fast walking or slow jogging on the spot.

This should raise your body temperature and bring you out in a slight sweat.

Stretching should be a gentle movement - don't try to force the stretch by bouncing or over-reaching.

For those keen to take things a little further but who need an extra incentive, a personal trainer could be the answer. Their job is to help people get fit by developing an action plan to suit an individual's needs.

Nick Gray from Hove is a personal trainer who visits people at home rather than being based in a gym.

People become more motivated if they know he is coming around to see them and will be more likely to get up for a morning run than turn over and go back to sleep.

Nick can help people who may only want to lose a few pounds or serious athletes looking for support. He will also advise on the best diet.

People planning to take up exercise seriously should consult their doctor first to check there are no medical reasons why they shouldn't go ahead.

People not keen on sport can find other ways of keeping fit by changing their lifestyle. Apart from watching their diet, simple decisions such as walking instead of taking the car or doing the gardening can help a lot.

A little bit of gentle exercise is better than none at all.

Here is a series of basic warm-up exercises. Each should be held for 15 seconds and repeated four times:

Calf stretch: Stand with one
foot forward, knees bent.

Your back knee should be straight and facing forward.

Lean forward over your bent knee without bending at the waist, keeping the back heel on the floor. You should feel a gentle pull in the calf of the back leg.

Hamstring Stretch: Lie on
your back with one knee bent. Support the back of your thigh with both hands.

As you straighten your leg, make sure your back is flat on the floor with your chin tucked into your neck.

Hip stretch: Sit with one leg
stretched out in front of you.

Cross the other leg over.

Using one arm for support, turn the upper body towards the bent knee. Put the opposite hand on the outside and continue moving towards the bent knee until you feel the stretch.