The Battle of the Bulge was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. It is also a term widely and flippantly used to describe the efforts needed to combat the obvious onset of midlife, namely the burgeoning waist.
Most women who have had children will have engaged in some form of "core toning" programme in their post baby years but as if that is not enough, along comes midlife and the menopause and it starts all over again - a midriff crisis if you like.
On the positive side though, 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 which as we know helps to burn off those calories which simply get tougher to shift as we age. 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. My FitBit rarely leaves my wrist even if just to act as a reminder to how lazy I have been that day and because sometimes 10,000 steps doesn't always happen, it forces me to compensate the following day.
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 in old age. A fun way to do this is with a Hula Hoop.
The 1950's is widely associated as the period when the world went hooping crazy but actually it can be tracked even further back than that, when believe it or not it was a popular pastime of Greek and Roman men.
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 which is around 40 inches and weighs about 1.5kg.
Getting started is the hardest bit by far, even if you did hoop endlessly as a child, but for me I found that the Forward Stance was the most effective to begin with.
It is natural to assume you need to swirl the hoop around in a circle by simply swinging your hips in a circular motion but this doesn't work. You actually 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.
I have to say, however, this seems to be an easier move for women than men as both males in my house failed terribly at getting the hoop to circle without lurching back and forth.
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 if you want to. 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 on and off over the last couple of years and have always been surprised at how much firmer I feel afterwards - if somewhat bruised on the hip bones!
It is a cheap and relatively easy exercise and to keep me motivated I leave my hoop propped in the kitchen and the teens will often find me waiting for the supper to cook, watching the evening news and indulging in some mindless hooping! It has also been known to come into its own at parties - it's surprising how competitive grown adults can get after a few drinks.
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?
Editors Note : This post has been updated since first published.