BY taking the simplest of steps you could be on the path to a healthier, active life and the benefits could be huge.

With the launch of Active 2014 Glasgow Life gym instructor Gareth Menzies says if you start small, you will be reap the rewards.

The Evening Times' new campaign has the aim of improving lives by encouraging as many people as possible to join in.

Everyone has to start somewhere and for many that can be as easy as taking the dog for a long walk, taking the stairs at work rather than the lift or getting off the bus one stop early and walking the rest of the way.

"There is a range of benefits from increasing activity," he says.

"It could be walking to work or going for a 10-minute walk around the block: that little bit of exercise will give you fitness benefits, for example, weight loss, helping you with flexibility and posture.

"The benefits definitely outweigh the negatives but I can't stress enough how important it is to change your attitude to fitness. Give it a try, you might like it."

Gareth's recommen-dation is to start doing gentle exercises, preferably after getting advice from a fitness professional, such as a Glasgow Life gym attendant.

A session of squats, press-ups, lunges and crunches are good all-round compound exercises to work muscles in the upper and lower body.

"Squats are great for developing flexibility," he explains. "If you feel a bit tight if you are sitting at a desk all day it is one of the exercises you can do."

He suggests a beginner starts with two or three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.

"There's no point trying to do 50 - make it realistic and make it achievable," he says.

As part of a routine with press-ups, lunges and crunches, do them three times a week.

When you are starting, try your best to overcome the mental barriers that get in the way of doing exercise.

Gareth suggests writing down the things in your life that might get in the way of going to the gym: from work and family life to the basic logistics of how you get there.

"Change little things like cycle to work if you have a bike, you would be surprised how many people have a bike sitting in the shed collecting dust.

"Meet friends and go for a jog in the park or get inducted into a local gym. The key thing is keeping your fitness regular."

It is easy to go into a gym for the first time and think everyone around you is super-fit and you are the only one slugging it out, struggling just to get through the warm up on the treadmill.

"Start off at your own level rather than trying to compete with other people," advises Gareth.

"Start at a basic level and in a couple of weeks or a couple of months you will find your fitness levels will improve quite a bit and your ability levels."

Once you start exercising, it is a good time to look at your diet, swapping sugary snacks and crisps for fruit and veg and drinking more water. Keep an eye on portion sizes and eat little and often, rather than three big meals a day, to maintain metabolism.

Once you have done that first session, you might have a more positive approach to getting active.

"See how you feel the next day, you might be a wee bit sore but that's normal," says Gareth, "that's just showing you are working the muscles you haven't worked for a while.

"Exercising releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins so you do feel better and that can also help in reducing stress.

"If you are fairly stressed and have a hectic job, a wee bit of exercise can be as little as just getting yourself active for half an hour, three to five times a week - just to a point where you start to feel a little hot and sweaty and your heart rate is elevated. That's enough to start off with."

There is a range of classes available at local gyms, from Zumba to boot camp. Try them to see what works for you and work them into your weekly regime.

Think about altering your routine every six weeks or so keep it varied.

Don't forget to set some goals, from what you want to achieve in the first couple of months, to where you want to be in six months and a year from now.

Keep a diary session tracker and make a note of body measurements as you go.

"Keep an eye on how your clothes feel," says Gareth.

"Too many people get caught up with hopping on and off scales. You might not be losing weight but find that you can fit into a dress or a pair of trousers you couldn't a few weeks ago."

Our Active 2014 campaign, with partners Glasgow Life and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, is targeted at improving the health of as many people as possible in the year of the Common-wealth Games and building a lasting legacy of physical wellbeing.

Focusing on events and individuals of all ages, we aim to improve the health of as many people as possible in the community.

The positive message of this campaign is that even the smallest of changes in activity and lifestyle can make a huge improvement in health.

We will target a series of health goals, including basic fitness, obesity, diet and smoking cessation and deliver the message that small changes in activity and lifestyle can make a huge improvement in health.

We want to do all this by raising the profile of health and fitness initiatives and opportunities