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The only way is Zumba: Getting healthy with the stars

TOWIE Mum and daughter Debbie Douglas and Lydia Bright are enjoying their latest stint as celeb ambassadors for new DVD, Zumba. Gemma Dunn uncovers their top tips for living a healthy, balanced lifestyle and plans for 2016.

When it comes to mixing work and play, mother-and-daughter team Lydia Bright and Debbie Douglas have it down to a fine art. Not only does the comical duo share a close family bond and screen time as co-stars of ITVBe reality soap The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE), they now split the duty of official ambassador for Universal Pictures' latest DVD, Zumba, too.

And while Douglas, in her early 50s, comes up trumps in the longevity stakes ("I've been doing Zumba longer than Lydia"), both are proud to assert their position as long-term fans of the dance fitness programme - and the "laughs" and social community that come with it.

"It's for all ages," notes a jovial Bright.

"It's so hard to find an exercise that you can do with your mum - and sometimes my nan even comes along. It's something that everyone can have fun with as you can do it at your own ability; if you want a more intense workout, you just do the steps a little bit harder."

The DVD, which features three fitness workouts: Step-by-Step, Dance, Dance! and Super Cardio Dance Party, caters to amateurs and seasoned zumba-ers, which Douglas credits with "allowing you to see if you really like it before joining a class at the local church hall".

"When people are chilly they do want to be in the comfort of their own homes and that's where fitness DVDs coming in handy. I think that's why so many people buy them as Christmas presents, as January is even colder," vouches Bright.

And while it seems Zumba's having a bit of a revolution of late, there's one person who doesn't get to go along to the classes - and that's TOWIE's James Argent 'Arg', Bright's on-off boyfriend.

"I don't know why we haven't taken him yet, because he'd love it. He's a fantastic dancer, so we should definitely think about taking him along. Maybe that will be his New Year's resolution."

"He is," Douglas echoes. "We'll put it in his Christmas stocking and make him do it."

Aside from Zumba, both enjoy an active lifestyle - 'enjoy' being the word.

"I know I look really, really good, but I'm in the older generation," Douglas teases.

"I've done years of running club, spinning class and step aerobics, but I just like to walk now. I'm part of the Buckhurst Hill dog walkers (why does everyone laugh when I say that?). There are about 10 women between 50-60 years old and we take all of our dogs and walk for miles - that's a lot of exercise."

While Bright, 25, has a good few years to go before she makes the 'Buckhurst' cut, the apple certainly doesn't fall far from the tree.

"I'm more of a class kinda person; I don't like going to the gym by myself because I really lose focus. Zumba and pilates are my weekly ones and then I'll just throw in a body attack or whatever's going."

As for healthy eating, it's a case of 'everything in moderation' - code for 'we all deserve a good scoff once in a while'.

"I never use the word 'diet'; it's about changing your lifestyle and eating healthily," Douglas states, adopting a mother-like poise.

"It doesn't mean to say you can never eat a chocolate biscuit; just don't eat a whole packet.

"I used to be a real chocoholic, but I've really gone off it lately. I don't know why. I don't think I'm pregnant or anything ... " she says, smiling wryly.

Bright adds: "I try to eat healthily as I actually really enjoy it. I'm not into junk food and snacking and things as I was brought up quite healthy.

"If I fancy a biscuit, I won't force myself not to have it. We all need to treat ourselves and I do have a takeaway once a week, but generally, I try to follow a healthy, balanced lifestyle. If I eat rubbish, I feel rubbish."

Having fostered a total of 250 children in 22 years, Douglas is certainly proud to have been the advocate behind a healthy home.

"If there's rubbish in your cupboards, you'll eat it," Bright ascertains. "When we were kids, we'd say, 'Mum, we're hungry' and she'd say ..."

"FRUIT!" Douglas barks, drawing a cackle from the room.

So will Bright follow in the big-family footsteps with Arg?

"I don't think I'd want one as big as my mum has had, but I definitely want a family one day.

"At the moment, though, there's so many exciting things going on with my career and loads of places that I still want to travel to and I'm aware that when you have children, your life changes. I'm not prepared for that change yet."

For now, the blonde TV star, who owns Essex boutique Bella Sorella with her sister and helmed a fashion line for high street brand Lipsy, is happy to continue her reign on TOWIE.

"I still have such a laugh. I get to film with my mum, my boyfriend and there aren't a lot of jobs out there like that.

"I'm so grateful for the opportunities it's given me; it's been an incredible journey."

Making her debut as one of the original cast members in 2010, Bright confesses that, while it can be hard growing up and going through tough times on TV, she does enjoy aspects of the popular show.

"As girls, we all want to look our best. In TOWIE we have to be a bit more switched on as we're being pictured all the time, but I don't see it as a negative thing. I enjoy having my hair and make-up done and looking glam. For me, it's a nice pressure."

"Well I think I naturally look good all the time," chimes in mother-of-four, Douglas.

Friendly competition out the way, does 2016 looking promising?

"I'll be looking for a new house with James," Bright reveals, beaming.

"Also, mum and I like to do something for charity every year and my brother has epilepsy, so we're thinking of hosting a charity ball for epilepsy and also a Zumba party.

"I think it's best not to make too many plans because you never know what opportunities are going to come your way, but yeah, hopefully it will be an amazing year."

  • Zumba is out now on DVD and Digital HD through Universal Pictures (UK)

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