There is nothing new about the mum tum. I have lost count of the endless articles I have read over the years about why we have one and the best ways to get rid of it. Personally, ever since the arrival of Teenager No.2, mine has resolutely refused to shift, despite me engaging in every "core strenghtening" exercise programme known to woman.
Now, however, as I face 50 I am confronted with a new crisis surrounding my core known as the menopause, which apparently is going to make the matter a whole lot worse. Oh joy! Yes, it is a fact that the menopause and the waist are not best friends.
Apparently this is all because of the decline in oestrogen that occurs at this stage of a woman's life, which in turn leads to an increase in insulin, promoting fat storage around the waist and making it more difficult to break down.
Whilst we can't change nature, we can lessen the impact. Keeping active is the single most important thing we can do to make sure we keep our metabolic rates up. Yes it is harder as we get older but a sedentary lifestyle is ill advised. Walking is free and easy and 10,000 steps per day is the recommended target. Since Mr MoT gave me my Fitbit Zip last Christmas I have become addicted to notching up my daily steps.
We can also train our abdominal muscles in readiness for the fattening of our midriff with exercises that focus more on the obliques, which will help to tighten up our waists and thus lessen the pending androgynous look which sees our waists thicken. A fun way to do this is with a Hula Hoop.
Launched back in 1958 the Hula Hoop is not just for kids and can work wonders on the midriff section. It does require concentration, but once you have found your rhythm it is relatively plain sailing. So what are the benefits?
- The art of twirling the hoop will strengthen and tone all your abdominal muscles in one go and there are few exercises that can claim that.
- The recommended minimum in order to see concrete results is 10 minutes per day, but believe me it is addictive and once you get going you won't want to stop. If you can manage 30 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week you should notice a dramatic difference in around 4 weeks.
- Hula Hooping is also aerobic which of course means your stamina will improve and you will burn calories. A 30 minute workout will see you not only burn anything up to 250 calories but also drop inches around your waist.
- As with any exercise, incorporating weights will add a greater resistance to the workout and strengthen and tone the abs more, so go for a weighted hoop. I have a circus hoop I bought from Flames N' Games which is around 40 inches and weighs about 1.5kg but Amazon sell similar for around £20.
Getting started is the hardest thing but I found that the Forward Stance is the most effective to begin with. Everyone assumes you need to swirl the hoop around in a circle by swinging your hips in a circular motion but actually you need to position your feet hip width apart, place one slightly in front of the other, tuck your pelvis under, place the hoop around your waist and then after a quick move counter clockwise you shift your weight forwards and backwards to maintain the hoop's momentum.
Once you have mastered this there are many exercises online that can help you to vary your routine and work harder to increase your heart rate. I often let my hoop slip down to my hips which then requires additional effort in a sideways motion to prevent it from falling to the ground. Occasionally I will also hold hand weights and try to keep my arms at shoulder height to strengthen and tone my arms at the same time as I twirl.
I have dabbled with my Hula Hoop over the last few months and have always been surprised at how much firmer I felt afterwards, but in my battle against the midriff crisis I am on a mission to embrace its benefits again with renewed vigour, especially as the dreaded days for baring all on the Costa Del Sol are fast approaching.
Have you tried hooping? Do you have any great hooping exercises that work for you or do you have any other great ways of toning up your midriff?