Can you suggest any fitness routines to help stop the downward slide of various bits? I particularly want to firm up my inner thighs, stomach and underarms. I am a 64-year old woman, work full-time, am a carer, go line-dancing a couple of times a week and have very little spare time.
The older we get, the harder we have to work to defy gravity. The earth literally starts to pull us down, causing sagging breasts, tummies and bums, rounded shoulders and hunched postures. That makes stretching, strengthening and postural awareness key fitness aims for the second half of our lives.
All three areas of “toning” that you mention – stomach, inner thighs and under-arms – can benefit from specific strength training exercises. These use weights machines, hand-held weights or your own body for resistance to build your muscles. As the muscles develop, the areas feel and look more defined and less flabby. Don’t worry about turning into the Incredible Hulk: women don’t get obviously musclely unless they work very hard using a special routine. You will need to find a way, however, of fitting in your strength training sessions, two to three times a week, and don’t expect instant results: it may take three to six months to see changes.
If you were able, say, to find one extra evening slot and also swap one line dancing session, you could sign up for a twice-weekly beginners’ Pilates class. This would provide an excellent workout, helping all the areas you want to target. Provided the instructor is properly qualified and the group is small (eg, six to eight people), this might be your “best buy”.
If you really need to fit in your workout at home, there’s one home exercise DVD I could recommend, which is Angela Rippon’s “Fabulously Fit at 50 and Beyond”. Clear instructions, challenging routines and proper attention to technique make it exceptional. Take a look at this You Tube clip.
If you can only manage a couple of home exercises, try these three times a week:
Box press-ups: kneel on all fours on a comfortable surface, knees under hips and wrists under shoulders. Suck in your tummy button and lower your body down to the floor by bending your elbows, until your nose nearly touches the ground. Press your hands into the ground and push, slowly straightening your arms again, to bring your body back to the start. Do this 10 times, with slow control. Click here for the full exercise
Inner thigh squeeze: Sit on the edge of an armless kitchen chair, feet hip-width apart and hands lightly holding the chair sides. Place a football or similar object (not too soft) between your knees, squeeze hard and hold for a count of 8 while you keep breathing. Relax and repeat 10 times. Click here for the full exercise
Lower stomach lift: Lie flat, face down, head resting on hands. Press your hips lightly into the ground and suck up your lower tummy (think belly button) hard until you feel it could be touching your backbone. Keep it held for a count of 8, breathing throughout. Relax and repeat 10 times. Click here for the full exercise