Even if you are taking plenty of exercise, you may have particular problem areas which will respond well to a simple routine. The culprits for most of us are tummies and legs.
Fitness expert Tania Alexander has devised these easy exercises for The Beauty Bible to give you lean and lovely pins and a washboard stomach.
Instant stomach slimmers
As well as making you look good, strong muscle tone in your stomach will improve your posture and help prevent back problems. Start by doing five of each exercise daily and increase the number by five each week. With faithful practice, you should start to see results within a couple of weeks. These gentle exercises should be suitable for all ages and shapes, but consult your doctor first if you are pregnant or have any injuries or health complaints.
Breathe in through your nose to prepare for each exercise and out through your mouth as you do each one.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Concentrate on anchoring your lower back to the ground, then raise your head and shoulders slightly off the floor as you let your hips roll up and your body form a C-shape.
Rest your arms loosely on your stomach or, if you are more advanced, put them behind your head. (N.B. take care not to pull on the neck as you come forward.)
As with all these exercises, it’s much more effective to do five controlled curl-ups than ten rushed ones. A common mistake is to curl up slowly then crash down. Curl up to the count of two, repeat on the way down. Check by placing one hand on your stomach as you curl up. If the muscles start to bulge, you are coming up too far or too fast.
Again, when you’re more advanced, you can add in a twist to work the side stomach muscles and help create a slimmer waist: place your hands behind your head and curl towards each knee with the opposite elbow leading.
Pull your stomach in
Not only does this make you look better, it’s good exercise for the stomach muscles. Make a conscious effort to do this as often as possible, even if you’re just walking down the road or standing in a queue. Also pull your bottom in, clenching the muscles. Don’t let your shoulders rise.
While you are pulling your tummy and bottom in, imagine you are being pulled upwards by a string at the top of your head. Remember to keep your shoulders and upper body relaxed all the time; it helps to imagine your shoulder blades sinking down.
Breathe and tone
Visualise your stomach as a balloon. When you breathe in, imagine it inflating. As you breathe out, let the air out like a balloon deflating. Your stomach will flatten almost miraculously. It’s easier to do this when standing, lying or sitting rather than walking.
Exercise your pelvic floor muscles
The lower part of your stomach, known as the ‘double belly’, is the hardest to tone, particularly if you have had children. Strong pelvic floor muscles act as an internal corset supporting your lower stomach muscles. The muscles on your pelvic floor form a figure of eight, from the pubic bones in the front to the coccyx at the back, and are the ones used to control the flow of urine. To exercise them, draw them all up internally and tighten. You can do this when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, at a bus stop or working at your desk.
The following exercises should produce mild tension in the muscles. Practise diligently and you should see quite an improvement within two weeks.
Walking for shapelier legs
Stride out briskly for 20 minutes at least every other day. It works all the muscles from the top of the thighs to the feet.
Toning inner thighs
To tone inner thighs, swim breaststroke, go skating or take slide classes. Or try this easy exercise. Lie on your back, legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Place a large cushion between your knees. Breathe in, then exhale, squeezing the cushion as hard as possible. Hold for a count of two, then slowly release. Repeat ten times.
Toning outer thighs
To tone outer thighs, do leg raisers. Hold on to a table or draining board, and stand on your left leg, bending it slightly. Lift your right leg out to the side and, from the relaxed position shown (left) flex your right foot (flexing is the opposite of pointing) until you feel tension in the outer thigh. Keep your hips square and facing forwards. Repeat ten to 15 times each side.
Toning fronts and backs of thighs
First, to get a stretch down the front of your thighs, stand facing the table or draining board, keeping your knees soft, not locked. Flex one foot and curl it up to your bottom. Repeat ten to 15 times on either side.
To exercise the back of your thighs, from the same standing position, shuffle your feet backwards so that you are at least an arm’s length away and your back is as flat as possible. Hold on if necessary. Repeat the exercise, as above.
Slim puffy ankles with ankle circles. Circle five times slowly in each direction, keeping the rest of your leg still.
Shaping up calves
Shape up calves on the staircase. Hold on to the rail for balance.
Place your heels over the edge of the step, rise on your toes and slowly down again so that your heels drop beneath the step. Repeat ten to 20 times daily.