Any tips for thighs, stomach and under-​arms?

Jane mugshot for JQACan 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

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