Middle age is that perplexing time of life when we hear two voices, one saying “why not?” and the other saying “Why bother”? Sydney L Harris
Bob Hope said that “Middle Age is when your age starts to show around your middle” and, unfortunately, he’s right; we are all at risk of the dreaded middle-aged spread but, with a bit of work we can lose the muffin tops and the baggy shirts along with it.
When we are young it’s very easy to build muscle and, if one of our muscles is damaged for any reason, it will quickly repair itself; this happens less and less easily as we get older and, as we lose muscle, we have a tendency to gain fat. Scientists have found that there are two types of fat in our body – brown and white; the brown fat is a heat generator which boosts metabolism and therefore burns the ‘bad’ white fat. As we get older, the brown fat becomes far less effective at its job leaving room for the white fat to spread and spread it will if we don’t do something about it!
We all know that it seems far more difficult to lose weight and keep in shape as we get older but it is possible so don’t despair. The first thing you need to think about is reducing your intake of foods that will increase the fat around your middle:
We need carbohydrates such as grains and potatoes for energy and, as with most food groups, it’s really not a good idea to cut them out completely. However, if you want to lose fat from your body it is a good idea to greatly reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates that you eat such as white bread and pasta.
Refined carbohydrates can cause your blood sugar to spike; to combat this your body produces insulin and insulin is a fat storage hormone, hence your body stores fat.
Whole grain products are certainly better for you but, if you eat a lot of bread and pasta you will find it difficult to shift those extra pounds.
The other thing you need to be staying away from is processed food or, as a rule of thumb, anything type of food that looks nothing like it did in its original state.
Once we’ve got the diet side of things sorted out, we can have a think about the exercise regime that will be best to shift the flab around our tums. Most people think of sit ups or stomach crunches when they think about trying to achieve a nice flat tummy; the problem is that, although you will be developing your abdominal muscles they will be hidden under a layer of fat if you’re not thinking about your diet at the same time as getting in some cardio.
If you don’t do a lot of exercise then take it easy and first and then build up gradually; you will need to build up your muscles but it’s no good if you work-out like mad in the gym in the first week and end up pulling half of them! Brisk walking for half an hour at a time, 3 or 4 days a week is a great way to start burning fat; if you can add in a few hills or stairs so much the better. Walking is low intensity so you are not at risk of injury and it won’t burn existing muscle. You can also think about swimming, again it’s low intensity but you need to swim continuously for at least 10 minutes, gradually building up to 20 or 30 minutes as your fitness and endurance improve.
Once you see that your body is starting to change shape you can think about exercises that are designed to burn fat around the stomach area such as crunches
Core exercises will improve your balance and stability and, the stronger your core muscles are, the less strain you will be putting on the muscles in your lower back.
As with all exercise programmes, if you feel any sudden pain or shortness of breath take a break until you feel better. If you have any existing medical problems, consult with your doctor before you start.