Before we start indulging in the mince pies and mulled wine, it’s a good time to tackle our waistlines. Fitness guru Matt Roberts shares his targeted exercise and eating programme with Peta Bee
IT’S almost four weeks until Christmas and, for many, the inevitable conveyor belt of mince pies, festive tipples, and other goodies it brings is enough to send even the most diligently healthy into a state of panic. How do you ensure that you are in shape to tackle the onslaught of Christmas calories? We have recruited the leading personal trainer, Matt Roberts, to help tone and trim our tums in time for December 25.
Roberts, the go-to guru of celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Natalie Imbruglia, and Trudie Styler, is adamant that you can reduce your waistline in time for Christmas. But, he stresses, your approach needs to be targeted and focused.
Studies have shown that the route to a trim waist relies on a range of exercises that work the range of muscles in the midsection, including the upper and lower rectus abdominus and the external obliques.
“You need to include exercises that require both constant abdominal stabilisation as well as body rotation to engage the most muscle activity in your waistband muscles,” says Roberts. “Sit-ups and crunches alone aren’t enough.”
It’s hardly surprising that our waistlines are expanding at a rapid rate. According to recent surveys, most of us sit or lie down for
more than 20 hours a day, taking the weight off our feet far too often as we commute to work, sit at a desk, and sit down in front of the TV in the evening. Its effects are not only aesthetically damaging. Research in the British Medical Journal showed that 65% of people spend eight to ten hours sitting on weekdays, with many sitting for eight hours even at weekends and that our sedentary behaviour is now one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Flab that accumulates around the middle and hangs over your waistband suggests that you have a lot of visceral fat, the sort that infiltrates your internal organs, such as your liver and pancreas. It’s crucial that you attack it before it takes its toll. But shedding fat around your middle can be achieved in a relatively short timeframe. Stick with the waist-targeting exercise regimen below coupled with a healthy diet and you can expect to lose up to two inches from your midriff, says Roberts.
“You will need to do the routine at least three to four times a week, gradually increasing the number of repetitions until you can easily manage the ‘advanced’ level,” he adds.
On top of that, you need to up your general aerobic activity on most days of the week, aiming for a cumulative minimum of 150 minutes a week. Running, rowing, cycling, and swimming are all options, but brisk walking can also be effective.
A recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that daily walking can improve your lifespan. Of nearly 140,000, it was found that those who walked for at least 150 minutes a week were at a 20% reduced risk of premature death, compared to those who walked less. Results of the 13-year study also found that people who only walked gained almost as many health benefits as those who did other workouts. “A lack of time on our feet impacts disastrously on our body shape and fitness,” says Roberts. “You should be walking every day for at least 25-30 minutes — a short stride is the most efficient (a long stride means you lose momentum and power) — preferably longer.”
The programme: You should complete the entire programme of exercises below three or four times a week — it will take about 20 minutes. On two other days do cardio work, ie, running, walking, or cycling. This should include a 12-minute session with bursts of 30-second sprints and a minute to recover. Take one day of complete rest.
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hipwidth apart.
Engage the abdominal muscles and squeeze your buttocks to raise your hips from the floor. Press your heels into the ground as you do this to remain stable.
Don’t push too high — the aim is to form a straight line from shoulders to knees. Lower slowly.
Beginner: Repeat 15 times.
Advanced: Repeat 30 times.
Lie on your side and elevate your body, supporting your weight between your forearm and feet.
Keep your body straight with the hips off the floor.
Your neck and back should stay straight throughout.
With your left arm, reach through the gap beneath your right arm, past your torso.
Return to the start position.
Beginner: 10 reps each side
Advanced: 20 reps each side
Start on your hands and knees.
Make sure your knees are directly beneath your hips and wrists beneath your shoulders.
Look down towards the floor.
Engage your core muscles and bring your right knee and left arm inwards to form a tightly formed ball.
Hold for a second and then slowly raise and extend your right leg behind you and your left arm in front of you, Superman style.
Try to maintain a flat back and reach from your fingertips to your toes.
Hold for a few seconds and then return to the tight ball.
Repeat the set number of repetitions on that side before switching.
Beginner: 20 reps on each side.
Advanced: 30 reps on each
Squats engage the whole trunk area but also work the legs.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees and toes pointing slightly outwards.
Keep your back straight and your head up.
Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Slowly return to the start position.
Beginner: Repeat 12-15 times.
Advanced: Repeat 20-25 times.
Assume a basic press-up start position with your arms fully extended so that your weight is balanced through your hands and remaining light on your toes.
Drive your right knee forwards to the outside of your right arm, landing with the ball of the right foot.
Spring back to the start position and repeat with the left leg to the left side.
Keep a strong pace and good momentum.
Beginner: 20 repetitions (10 each side).
Advanced: 30 repetitions (15 each side)
Assume a basic plank position.
To do this, lie face down with your elbows on the ground and elevate your body upwards, keeping your weight distributed between forearms and feet.
Your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle.
Keep your back straight with hips raised off the floor.
Squeeze the torso tight and slowly raise your right arm, reaching forward without twisting or moving the rest of your body.
Hold your arm level to your right ear for 1-2 seconds then slowly replace it to the start position.
Repeat on the left arm.
Beginner: 12 repetitions (6 on each arm).
Advanced: 20 repetitions (10 on each arm)
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