The right exercise regime to suit your needs can vary from a brisk walk to a full workout

In the past gyms were considered a truly male domain but these days you are just as likely to see a woman working out.

Women have overcome the fear of entering this particular man?s world and have discovered that while it may look like a crude torture chamber it is in fact a great way to keep fit.

Contrary to popular belief weight lifters don?t necessarily develop bulging biceps. Weight lifting can be used simply to tone up those slack muscles to give you the body beautiful.

The principle is simple: using your muscles to apply force against something which is offering resistance. This firms up the muscles, building strength and stamina and ultimately improving the shape of your whole body.

Choose your gym wisely, ensuring it has not only the up to date equipment but also qualified staff.

A good gym instructor will be interested in you and your personal fitness needs and will be able to work out a personalised training programme.

If the instructor pushes you beyond your limits, or fails to listen to your needs, then go elsewhere.

It is not enough to attend the gym once in a while, if this form of exercise is to work, then you must attend regularly and give yourself specific aims.

Know what you want to achieve and go for it. But don?t expect supervisors to be mind readers, you must tell your instructor any particular problems you may have such as a bad back, knees or especially a heart condition. Set yourself short term goals. Take regular exercise over four to six weeks for general fitness, then target specific areas such as tummy, thighs and bottom. This way you can monitor your achievements and feel good about yourself.

If a gym isn?t for you then consider another modern keep fit concept. Exercise beds, such as those put out by Slimtone, hit the market a few years ago. Each bed is designed to work at a specific body area. The machines give two options: either you lie back and let them do all the work or you can work with them for faster results.

This form of exercise offers little benefit to general health with no cardiovascular stimulation, but can help those inches disappear.

Of course there are plenty of other ways to get fit. Aerobics, swimming and team sports to name but a few. Indeed, women?s rugby and football are two of the fastest growing sports.

In Britain the average woman has 33 hours of leisure time a week, while her male counterpart has 11 extra hours. Women tend to use this time for fitness exercise, such as swimming, while men prefer less demanding sports, such as snooker.

Households in the United Kingdom spend nearly 16 per cent of their total expenditure on leisure. This amount will increase dramatically as more leisure time becomes available which experts predict will happen by the year 2000.

Cashing in on the boom are the holiday companies who offer a wide range of activity-based vacations, such as sailing, swimming and golf.

Employers are recognising the benefits of a healthy work-force and many are now installing gyms and pools to encourage their staff to exercise.

Fitness centres are springing up everywhere and the choice can be bewildering but as long as you know what you want there is no need to be put off.

Shop around and talk to your friends and colleagues to see which places offer the best facilities for you.

Go with a group of friends, get fit and enjoy yourself.

If all else fails, plug in the latest keep fit video and start bouncing round your carpet!