Guide to body sculpting

With the festive party season nearly upon us, now is the time to lose weight and tone up (before the mince pies do their damage!). But what options are there for people who don't like running and cycling?

Body sculpting machines may not offer speedy weight loss, but many promise to improve the tone and firmness of certain muscles, thereby giving you a more slimline figure.

Man pinching midriff
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If you're a regular at the gym then there will plenty of gadgets available.

The Gravity Blast is the latest training system designed to give you a high-intensity 30-minute workout. You sit, squat or lie on an adjustable ramp to perform resistance exercises that work the legs, arms and core, which means the intensity can be increased or decreased for all abilities.

With more than 200 different exercises (not necessarily all in one workout) the Gravity Blast can exercise most muscles in the body with just one piece of equipment. Classes are available at a variety of gyms, listed at

If you're pushed for time, the Power-Plate, which has been around for a number of years now, is for you. Its vibrations stimulate the muscles to contract and relax and, because it activates many muscle groups at the same time, it promises to give you a great workout in as little as 15 minutes.

Again, many gyms will be able to instruct you on achieving the optimum results. If you're feeling flush, you can buy your own machine from John Lewis, from £1,495.

Even quicker is the Pineapple. Similar to the Power Plate, the makers of this product claim it burns 400 calories every 15 minutes (if done properly), and you can even perform yoga or Pilates on it for maximum results.

Of course, some may prefer to avoid the gym altogether. And if you're looking to tone up at home, there are plenty of cheap but effective alternatives.

Exercise bands or bungee ropes provide excellent resistance training and generally come with a manual, guiding you through the best exercises for each muscle group.

And free weights, though not for everyone, will tone up that upper body. Combine them with lunges for a more thorough firming workout.

Last but not least is the exercise ball. Pilates exercises and core workouts with this low-cost piece of kit can elongate and strengthen the body and improve muscle tone and flexibility. And you won't need a spare room to keep it in!

Remember to check with your doctor before starting any fitness program. It's also worth seeking out proper instruction to keep you safe from injury and help you get the most from your workout.