Q. I am a 56-year-old mother-of-two with a reasonably healthy diet. I drink alcohol at the weekend, but three glasses at most. I go to the gym three times a week, where I do weights, and run twice a week – at least two miles. However, I can’t seem to get rid of my muffin top. What am I doing wrong?
A. It is highly frustrating when time spent exercising doesn’t yield the results that are hoped for. There can be many reasons for this, some simple, some less so.
Firstly, expectation-management is needed. We are all different body shapes and sizes. Our bodies change as we age and as life happens to us.
As the effects of having children, hormone changes and metabolism changes all kick in, it is not as easy to be as lean as we would like, or as we used to be.
It is highly frustrating when time spent exercising doesn’t yield the results that are hoped for
We need to get our heads around that and have a realistic view of what is achievable.
That said, I am not a purveyor of gloom about bodies, quite the reverse. A lot can be achieved. So, firstly, focus on intensity: do you get vigorously out of breath and sweaty when you work out?
Use interval training intensively two to three times per week, rather than only staying at one speed.
When you lift weights, are you lifting heavily enough that you can only perform eight to ten reps per set during two of your sessions each week?
Frequency is also key: exercise five days each week without fail, with two to three interval cardio sessions and two to three of constant-pace cardio.
You can combine interval sessions with resistance sessions, maybe two of heavy lifting, and two circuit sessions.
There are many other layers of complexity around diet, sleep, stress, hormones and other altering factors, but stick with this routine and you should see some realistic changes.
Q. I would like to lose a few stone and get fit since a life-changing accident 16 years ago. I lost the use of one arm, suffer a great deal of joint pain and have problems with my feet – plantar fasciitis. I am a third larger than I’d like to be. At 51, can I turn my life around?
A. Sometimes it seems like the whole world is against you, and the ailments keep mounting. Fitness loss and health problems often follow injury or illness.
Limited mobility is completely disheartening but in moments when we are up against it, it’s important to remember how we feel when we do even small things.
Conditions such as plantar fasciitis, which causes enormous pain in the base of the foot, make walking feel unbearable.
Helping to alleviate this will make the prospect of moving become more appealing.
Fitness loss and health problems often follow injury or illness. Limited mobility is completely disheartening but in moments when we are up against it, it’s important to remember how we feel when we do even small things
Stretch the calves on a daily, regular basis by standing on a step and lowering one heel off the edge. Hold this for 12 to 15 seconds each side and repeat it as often as you wish every day.
Secondly, while sitting down, use a tennis ball underneath the arch of your foot to encourage stretching of the muscle fascia under the foot and to increase blood flow. Use a circular motion of the foot on top of the ball for two to three minutes while you watch television.
The combination of these two things will encourage blood flow and mobility of the lower leg and foot for what is a surprisingly common condition.
Doing small things like this can make the world of difference in getting us moving again.
Both Eamonn and Ruth, left, are 57, but she seems to be wearing it far better
Some men might regard their wife running off with a dancer as a curse – others might see it as a blessing.
So quipped Eamonn Homes last week when his wife and This Morning co-host Ruth Langsford was announced as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.
Careful what you wish for, Eamonn.
Both he and Ruth, left, are 57, but she seems to be wearing it far better – although, to be fair, he did have a double hip replacement last year, and looks miles better for it.
Eamonn also teased: ‘You’re going to be an inspiration for old women all over the country.’
There’s no doubt about that – as the point at which we stop being active is when our bodies start to age more quickly. Ruth is a shining example of the benefits of keeping in shape, and not fading away.
Proof that being in peak condition with ‘advancing’ age is possible comes from some of our top sports stars.
Mo Farah won a gruelling 10k race against the world’s best young rising stars at 34, Usain Bolt is hanging up his sprinting shoes at 30, having been beaten by a 34-year-old, while the mighty Roger Federer turned 36 last week… and to think that Bjorn Borg retired at 24!
Health Hack: Chew slowly to stay slim
Experts found that chewing each mouthful ‘until no lumps remain’ increases the number of calories the body burns during digestion
Most children are told at some point not to rush their food, but research suggests that chewing slowly may help control appetite and protect against weight gain.
Experts found that chewing each mouthful ‘until no lumps remain’ increases the number of calories the body burns during digestion, by about ten extra calories for a 300-calorie meal.
The effect is thought to be due to increased blood flow and activity in the stomach and gut.
A little extra time for chewing could theoretically burn about 2,000 extra calories each month.
Ever wonder why...other people's eating noises are so annoying?
Managing IBD, by Jenna Farmer
Sufferer Jenna and specialists provide a guide to living with the condition.
Hammersmith Books, £14.99, amazon.co.uk
Does the sound of noisy eating drive you up the wall? Well, you could be suffering from a brain abnormality, according to Newcastle University scientists.
Many will admit to finding hearing people chewing offputting, but those who suffer from misophonia report strong feelings of disgust when exposed to the noises.
Other ‘trigger’ noises included rustling of papers, with patients experiencing tension, headache, tightening jaw, stomach problems and even panic attacks.
By analysing brain scans, researchers found that sufferers had differences from the norm in their frontal lobe – believed to be responsible for emotional control – suggesting it is a genuine condition where medical opinion in the past has been sceptical.
Those with misophonia experienced an increased heart rate and sweated when they were confronted by a trigger sound, they said. The study was published in the journal Current Biology.
Don't stroll into tragedy
Father-of-three John Wynne fell to his death while walking with his daughter in North Wales. The 61-year-old slipped and plunged more than 160ft after taking a wrong turn on Tryfan, a 3,000ft peak in Snowdonia.
If you’re planning a hike, it’s vital to remember that hills and mountains can be dangerous places.
Mountain rescue teams were involved in more than 2,000 callouts last year. In the Lake District, deaths of walkers tripled, seemingly due to people not knowing their limits.
As this latest tragedy shows, a simple stroll can easily end in disaster. So take the right gear, and know how to read a map.