As we get older, it is not as easy to stay as fit as we were in high school. A drink here, a slice of pizza there and oh yes, we must not forget the ice cream, cake or creme brulee offering that we splurge on for dessert. Long gone are the days when our grandparents could do a few morning stretches and remain excellent shape.
Unfortunately, with the wide array of [high-caloric] foods that we eat today, combined with your basic desk job, maintaining optimal health and shape means paying attention to not only what we eat, but also how we incorporate fitness into our everyday lives. It’s not always easy finding the perfect balance, but I’ll work with you to find fun and engaging ways to add a fitness punch into your lives. So climb aboard, and let’s get into tip-top shape together!
Recognize Your Body Type
Did you know that research has shown that South Asians tend to have more fat in their trunk areas as opposed to their limbs? This phenomenon, referred to as “central obesity,” predisposes the South Asian community for a variety of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. Also, as a result of this body type, the most common problem areas (for both men and women) tend to be flabbier midsections and skinny legs.
Cardio is Key
Like many of us, you probably make it to gym a few times a week in the middle of your busy schedule. You may squeeze in some cardio, but less often have time to focus on abs or muscle strengthening exercises that really target these problem areas.
There is good news, though! Cardio is one of the best ways to help reduce excess fat and eliminate the flabby part of your belly. (You know that part our parents were able to hide under loose salwar tops andkurthas, but we just simply can’t hide in our skinny jeans — I’m talking to the ladies AND the gents here!) All you need is a few quick adjustments and you can multi-task even while you are at the gym.
Multi-task for Maximum Benefit
Typical ab exercises like those using the medicine ball or classic crunches work all muscle groups, but cardiovascular exercise such as running, biking and jumping rope can also help tone the midsection, when the right posture and form is used. This involves consciously engaging your core muscles and tightening your abs while doing a cardio workout. Doing so not only helps maintain balance throughout the exercise but also builds muscle.
Engage Your Core
The best way to engage your core without mistakenly sucking in your stomach (yes, there is a difference) is to think about the feeling you get in your midsection when you’re laughing or coughing. Technically when you laugh or cough, you project your stomach outwards, which tightens the muscles around your abdomen. When your entire body feels stable and the muscles around your stomach feel nice and contracted, you will know your core is properly engaged.
If you’re a runner, with the right form, you’ll not only engage and work your core, but you might also actually run faster by using your core muscles to propel yourself further.
Similar principles apply for biking: Engaging the core will help you push through a more powerful ride. One thing to keep in mind though, bikers, is that the core muscles are not as effectively engaged on a recumbent bike (the ones with low seat and a back rest). To really work those muscles in your midsection, an upright bike is preferred (those are the ones also most traditionally used in spin or cycle classes at the gym).
Strengthen Those Legs!
Now, onto the skinny leg phenomenon that plagues many South Asians. Good news there — because cardio can help with that, as well! While developing strong muscles will take time, you can integrate some simple changes into your cardio workout that will get you results you need.
While biking has proven more effective for bulking up, running can also get you on your way to stronger, more muscular legs. Next time you are on the treadmill, slow your pace down and kick up the incline to challenge your calf muscles. Or, if possible, cut your running time down and do some squats and lunges, instead, to work your lower half. These simple exercises will help you maintain the same level of calorie burn as cardio and while simultaneously working your legs.
Of course, no exercise is good on its own. Maintaining the right balance of diet and fitness is the only way to keep these problem areas in check. Nonetheless, you have to start somewhere — so get moving, and I’ll meet you at the gym!
This was originally published on Saffluence.