MATT ROBERTS: I'm fit...so how do I shift my muffin top?

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

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

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

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