Working out is difficult as it is, but when you have a holiday to prepare for, there's only one thing for it. Going for the burn. But is this really the most effective way to lose weight and tone up fast?

Overdoing the exercise may cause no harm in the short term, but its long term effects are not great for your body. There is an invisible barrier that is crossed when people go from couch potato to runner bean in a very short space of time and the results can be damaging. In effect, you are confusing your body and making it even easier to 'rebound' and once you have stopped your initial splurge, the weight will come straight back on.

The best and most effective way of losing weight and keeping it off, is to do it gradually and stick at it. If your body is used to shifting around on the coach rather than pounding the pavements, it's important not to rush the process. Start slow - with some light walking each day and build up from there. There are some great fitness programs, DVDs and software which can help out. But it is important to train each and every day, if you are really out of shape.

Step classes are especially good for consistent calorie burning, with a 30 minute session easily burning around 100 calories. This is a good exercise to do to build up your fitness level, before progressing to light jogging and eventually, running. Cardio exercise is the only way to burn fat, raising your metabolic rate to a certain level where you can start to shift the pounds, whilst toning will help to shape and firm muscles up.

Combining cardio exercise such as aerobics with weight training, will help to get rid of flabby arms and plenty of squats and lunges will help to tone up thighs, bums and tums. Doing these exercises every day will firm you up and if you can create your own routine and stick to it, you'll soon notice results.

Combine this with a healthy eating plan - everything in moderation, mostly fruit and vegetables, pulses, some lean meat/fish (or tofu if you're vegetarian), occasional fats - choose olive oil, nuts and dark chocolate over the milk version, if you have a sweet tooth. Follow this advice and you can't go wrong.

But it takes time to see the results. You won't suddenly lose pounds from doing this once or twice - you need to create a routine and stick to it. Write your progress in a diary, either on a day by day, or a week by week basis. Do this and you will soon start to see the results. Remember that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off.