Butternut Squash Soup

Last week I ordered a butternut squash on my online shopping and this 1.7kg behmouth turned up!  I had planned having it roasted with chicken but it was so big I decided to turn it into a soup for lunch. It is an excellent source of vitamin A and C and good source of vitamin E. Surprisingly enough it is also a source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids (not as much as fish or flaxseed but if you are not taking a supplement every little helps)

  1. Turn on oven. Mine is a fan one and appears to have nuclear tendencies but 170 would probably be good.
  2. Cut squash in half lengthways.
  3. Mix 2 tablespooons of olive oil or coconut oil with 1 teaspoon of garlic (I am very lazy and use jar garlic, if you are not then I would crush about 2 cloves)
  4. Baste the tops of the squash with the oil
  5. Add a sprig of rosemary and sprinkle paprika all over
  6. Butternut Squash Soup - Whole Life Fitness

  7. Bake for about 45 minutes  or until a knife goes in easily, again oven dependent.
  8. Boil a pint of chicken stock, if you have home made it will taste better (after having a roast just boil the carcass with some water for a couple of hours, strain and then freeze)
  9. Remove the rosemary (I find it too overpowering)
  10. Butternut Squash Soup - Whole Life Fitness

  11. Scrap all the squash into the boiling chicken stock and simmer for about 20minutes.
  12. Butternut Squash Soup Farnham

  13. Use a handblender to blend the ingredients of the saucepan and there you go gorgeous butternut squash soup with a little bit of a kick from the paprika.

P.S I love coconut so if you want add roughly 50g coconut cream to the pint of chicken stock. Also test whilst the soup is cooking and add more paprika/chill if you want a real kick.

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Adding weight to your workout – Part 1

I was asked the following question after my (slightly ranty) post about celebrity trainers and weight training.

“I’ve never thought about lifting weights. How does one get started, and how do you work into a cardiovascular work out?”

Some people are put off doing weights as they think it involves equipment they might not posess or because they don’t know how.

The poster makes this slightly easier for me as they already do a cardiovascular workout so the answer to how do you work it into a cardiovascular workout would be to put it after the main cardo session when your muscles are nice and warm before your stretching, or you could alternate cardio for 5 mins, weights for 5 mins. As long as you are warm when you start your resistance exercises it’s fine, so if you don’t already do cardio then I would recommend a 5-10minute warm up first, this could be marching on the spot or marching around the park.

If you already belong to a gym then ask one of the instructors to write you a programme, personally I would request it is based around free weights rather than resistance machines.

If you don’t belong to a gym then my next few posts are going to explore some bodyweight exercises you can do at home with no equipment. They will be multi joint exercises which means you get more bang for your buck. I will also in the near future be talking about some exercises you can do with equipment which requires very little financial outlay – resistances tubes (which are also very friendly for people who have arthritis).

The exercise I am going to talk about in this post is the push up. Now before you stop reading thinking there is no way I can do a push up there are lots of ways to do push ups and I promise there will be a modification to suit you.  The only people who may find push ups difficult are those with wrist problems such as arthritis. For those with arthritis please be very careful when trying this exercise, definitely start with beginners and stop if there is any pain.

The push up will primarily target the following muscles.

  • Pectoralis major (chest)
  • Triceps (back of arms)
  • Deltoids (shoulder)

However due to you needing to keep your body in a straight line there will be other muscles being utilised.

Beginner – Wall push up

  1. Stand facing a wall roughly arm length away. Place hands on the wall at chest height and shoulder width apart with fingers pointing to the ceiling, there should be a slight bend in the elbow. The closer you stand to the wall the easier the push-up will be.
  2. Bend your arms (whilst inhaling) and your body will lean towards the wall, you should be aiming to get a 90 degree bend at the elbow but don’t worry it you can’t do this at first just lower yourself as far as it feels comfortable.
  3. Push off the wall (whilst exhaling) until your arms are back in the starting position with elbows slightly bent.

Intermediate – Back of sofa/bench push up

Instead of using the wall your hands will rest on top of the back of the sofa (or bench).  Again the closer your feet to the sofa/bench the easier the exercise. Lower your chest to the top of the bench/sofa and push up again. Gradually try to lower your elevated hands (i.e. go from back of sofa to seat of sofa).

Advanced – Floor push up

  1. Lie face down on the floor, hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Push off the floor(whilst exhaling), keeping your body straight, until your arms are extended (but do not lock elbows out)
  3. Bend your arms (whilst inhaling) and lower your body to floor.

For all variations try and work up to 10 repetitions but do not work to failure, stop when you think you have one more with good form left in the tank.

Things you need to remember with all variations.

  • Keep back and body in straight line
  • Your elbows should not point out straight out to the side but slightly behind you
  • Dont lock your elbows out
  • Hold your stomach in

You may have seen a modification of the press up where the person is on their knees. Whilst a valid variation I prefer to do it with hands starting high and moving gradually lower, this is because the postion of the body mimics that of a full push up.

In the next post I will talk you thru how to do squats which will target the lower body muscles.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Helen Witcomb runs Whole Life Fitness which is a personal training company which specialises in the over 50s. For more information please visit Whole Life Fitness or call 01252313578.

Are quadricep exercises a no-no if you have arthritis in the knee?

If you have arthritis in the knee you have probably been told you can’t do squats & lunges, which are traditional exercises to strengthen the quadriceps (muscles on front of thigh). Yet having strong quadricep muscles can help with the arthritis as  stronger muscles provide better support to the joint. So what can you do?

There are several exercises that you can practice in order to strengthen your quadriceps without harming your knees. Here are some in order of difficulty.

Quad Set

  1. Sit or lie on a bed with the leg as straight as possible. Point the toes to the ceiling and then back towards you. Try and keep them in this position.
  2. Tense the front upper leg muscle and attempt to force the back of the knee downward to touch to surface behind it. Tense the muscle for 10 seconds before releasing. If you want you can put a rolled up towel behind the knee.
  3. Repeat this 10 times and then swap legs.

Straight leg Raise whilst sitting

  1. Sit in a chair tall with good posture, your thighs should be together and your knees bent with feet apart
  2. Straighten and raise one leg.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly lower your leg.
  4. Repeat this at least 10 times with each leg.

Straight Leg Raise whilst lying

  1. Lie flat on your back either on the bed or the floor with one leg bent and one leg flat
  2. Raise the leg lying flat about 6 inches from the bed/floor making sure the toes stay pointed towards you. When you do this exercise make sure you are engaging (by tensing) the muscle at the front of the leg and keep the leg straight.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly lower your leg
  4. Repeat 10-20 times, start at 10 and work up.

Wall slides.

  1.  Stand against a wall with your back touching it. Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
  2. Begin by slowly sliding down the wall, maintaining contact, until you are in seated position.  Your  hips and knees should both  be at 90-degrees, your back flat against the wall, and your heels are on the ground.
  3. Slowly push with the legs and slide up the wall to return to starting position.
  4. Start by doing this 3 times a day, to increase the difficulty of this exercise then when you are in the seated position hold for 5 seconds before sliding back up the wall.

Don’t do this exercise if it is consistently painful or if you are hearing crunching or cracking in your knees

If you can add some aerobic work to your routine. Both biking (stationary or regular) and aqua aerobics will raise your heart rate – just be careful you don’t use to much resistance or go up steep hills (for biking that is!).

Water makes exercise non-weight bearing and low impact and therefore will not cause pain to the knees when exercising. Aqua aerobics is a great choice for those with arthritis and most council leisure centres offer classes without you needing to be a member.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Helen Witcomb runs Whole Life Fitness which is a personal training company which caters exclusively for the over 50s. For more information please visit www.wholelifefitness.co.uk or call 01252313578.


Exercise Referral Schemes

This post is going to talk me out of business but it was bought to my attention that not everyone is aware of what their GP can offer them in regards to support to increase physical activity.

The GP Exercise Referral scheme allows doctors and other health professionals to refer people who would benefit from an increased exposure to physical activity to a local leisure centre for a reduced price. The idea behind the scheme is to provide an individual exercise programme for those with medical conditions that could be helped by regular exercise. Your programme will be designed and overseen by qualified fitness professionals. After the initial period (between 10-12 weeks) further discounts might be available to enable you to continue your exercise programme.

To be eligible to take part in an exercise referral scheme, you have to have a medical condition such as:

  • Weight loss (conditions apply)
  • Asthma – not exercise induced and in addition to at least being a smoker and/or sedentary
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Post Phase IV Cardiac Rehab
  • Joint injury rehabilitation
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)
  • Cancer – following treatment and in remission
  • Mental Health
The list of health conditions is subject to change, so check with your GP for a full and up-to-date list. This list was courtesy of Waverley Borough Council  

 

Physical activity has been shown to have the following benefits:

  • Regular physical activity decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in general and of CHD* mortality in particular. Physically inactive people have about double the risk of CHD.
  • Regular physical activity prevents or delays the development of high blood pressure, and reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension.
  • Physical activity is also important in helping people to control their body weight, and in controlling diabetes.
  • Specific forms of physical activity can help to reduce the risk of falls and accidents,by improving bone health and maintaining strength, co-ordination, cognitive functioning and balance.
  • Physical activity reduces the risk of colon cancer, and evidence is growing to support links with other forms of cancer.
  • Moderate intensity physical activity enhances the immune system.
  • Physical activity reduces the risk of depression, and has positive benefits for mental health including reducing anxiety, and enhancing mood and self-esteem.
  • Physical activity can play a valuable role in the prevention and treatment of non-specific chronic low back pain.

This list was taken from  Exercise Referral System: A National Quality Assurance Framework but is echoed in posts on this blog.

A report in 2004 reported that only 17% of men and 12% of women aged 65-74 are reaching the recommended levels of activity of 30+ minutes of moderate intensity 5+ times a week.  However decline in activity is not inevitable, in asian countries activity is maintained, or even increased when older age is reached.

Looking after your health now is important as it will help prevent further problems as you age and improve your quality of life. If you would like to increase your activity levels and think you qualify under the criteria then please speak to your GP. There is never a better time to start exercising than now!

If you have any questions then please leave a comment below. If you don’t qualify for the exercise referral scheme but would like to start exercising then this post  on walking your way to fitness is a good place to start.

*CHD – Coronary Heart Disease
Exercise – NHS Choices

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over 50s. This will open a new browser window.

 

Why you should step outside.

There is more to health than eating right and exercising. To be truly healthy you should have feelings of wellbeing, positivity and happiness with your life. If you have read my posts you will know how often I exhort getting outside for a walk to get some cardiovascular exercise, well now a research team from Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry has found that most trials that compare outdoor exercise to indoor exercise showed an improvement in mental well-being. In addition to this it states:

“exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.”

So getting outside is good for the cardiovascular system, good for mental wellbeing and also good for vitamin D levels (vitamin D deficiency is an established risk factor for osteoporosis and thus fractures.). As we age vitamin D levels decrease but it has been found that older people who get outside daily have the same vitamin D levels as younger people.

This quick post was inspired by an excellent blog I read this morning by Jackie Stewart

5 Ways to Find Happiness in Nature

So why don’t you take a step outside and go for a walk?

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise and the over-50s please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over 50s. This will open a new browser window.

Difficulty tying your shoelace?

I noticed someone found my blog using the search terms “hip flexor, difficulty tieing shoelace” so thought i would write a quick post on how to help with this. It could be tying shoelaces, putting on socks or washing feet.

The tasks listed above are mostly to do with flexibilty which begins to deteriorate with age as connective tissues stiffen, muscles shorten and joints become drier as synovial fluid dries up.

If possible see if there is a yoga class in your area which will help to improve range of movement as well as improve balance. If attending a class, or doing yoga, doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then the following might help.

Exercise your leg muscles by marching in place, raising each knee as high as you can. Start at 30 seconds and try to (gradually) work up to 5 minutes. We are trying to warm up the muscles. You can do the marching standing up, standing up using the back of a chair for balance or whilst sitting.

After marching do some leg swings which stretch your hip flexors and increase your range of motion.  Whilst standing and holding onto a stable surface (wall or back of chair) swing your leg from front to back. You need to keep your leg straight and the movement should come from the hips. Start with short swings and increase your range of motion a little with each swing but only do the range of movement that is comfortable for you. Switch legs after 10 swings and repeat on the other side.

Moving on do some side to side leg swings. These go across the body and then out to your side try not to rotate your upper body but again lead with the hips. It’s important the form of these exercises is correct not just the range of motion you achieve.  Switch legs after 10 swings and repeat on the other side.

Standing on one leg (using wall or back of chair to balance if needed) do a mobility exercise by trying to draw a circle with your toes, this will rotate your ankles. Do this both clockwise and counterclockwise to stretch all of your ankle muscles. Wiggle your toes for a few minutes to stimulate circulation and decrease stiffness.

We are going to stretch the hip, the hamstring (muscles in the back of the upper leg) and the calf (muscles in back of lower leg). Only stretch to a point of mild tension and do not stretch until it hurts. Once you have reached a feeling of tension, hold it for 20 seconds and remember to breathe!

Sit sideways on a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Hold the back of the chair with the nearest hand. Bend the opposite leg by dropping it off the chair. Slowly move your leg backwards until your knee is facing the floor. This will help stretch your quadriceps. Hold for 20 seconds then swing round and stretch the other leg.

In a seated position, bend one leg so that the knee forms a 90-degree angle and rest your ankle on the other knee. Gently push down on the knee of the crossed leg so that you feel a stretch in the hip. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs. If you would prefer an alternative exercise then whilst standing bring your knee up in front of you, take it out to the side and then down to feet together position. Hold on to wall of chair for balance if necessary. Switch legs after 10 repetitions and repeat on the other side.

Sit on the edge of your chair with your spine straight and chest lifted. Straighten your right leg and point your foot to the ceiling so that your heel is resting on the ground. Keeping your back straight slowly bend forward from the hips. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs.

To turn this into a calf stretch put a towel around the sole of your foot and hold an end in each hand. Slowly pull the towel towards you, pulling your toes toward you. This should create a stretch through your calf. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs.

That’s it! Doing this little exercise routine 3-4 times a week should help you with those tasks such as putting on your socks.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them. This exercise routine is not recommended for anyone who has had a hip replacement in the last 12 months.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over 50s. This will open a new browser window.

Motivation

Someone has tweeted me and asked how they can get back into their exercise routine after being on holiday. This is something I am asked a lot, people use a holiday as a motivational tool to do exercise, therefore when the holiday is over why bother continuing?

I feel people should use whatever method works for them to get themselves moving but as well as short term (1 month) and medium term (1-6 months) goals (such as looking good on holiday) it’s wise to plan long-term ones as well. You can use the fulfilment of short term goals to contribute to the achievement of long term goals and therefore continue to exercise and eat healthily all year long.

A long-term goal is generally set over a course of a year, so this is where the big numbers start to come into play. In my SMART blog post I stated it wasn’t a good idea just to say “I want to lose weight” it needs to be measurable so I suggested

“I want to lose 6 pounds in the next 6 weeks, I will do this by cutting down on portion size and exercising 3 times a week”

This would be your short-term goal. Your long term goal might be to lose 2 stone and as a long-term goal that would be fine. If you just wrote I want to lose 2 stone then it might seem daunting from the outset.

From a fitness point of view I know someone who currently has a long-term goal of the Great South Run which is 10 miles, however her short and medium term goals include finishing the couch potato to 5K training programme and then participating in several 5K and then 10K runs. The short/medium term goals help make the long-term goal achievable.

Ok so that’s the science bit, and most of the time it works. But what about the times you just can’t be bothered whatever the long term goal maybe?

Well here are some ideas that might help those ‘whatever’ days:

  • Put on work-out clothes when you get up
  • Schedule it in diary
  • Ring a friend and get them to join you for a walk/run/swim. You may not exercise as intensely due to chatting but at least you are moving.
  • Write down how it feels AFTER you have exercised and stick it somewhere you can see it
  • Allow yourself a treat after you have exercised. This doesn’t have to be food related!

Thinking positively helps, instead of thinking oh that exercise session is going to make me feel hot, sweaty and may hurt (in a good way!) think about the benefits you will be getting.  When you exercise endorphins are released which are the body’s natural feel good chemicals and therefore boost your mood naturally. So next time you are in a bad mood and can’t be bothered to exercise think about the fact exercise might be the cure!

I would love to hear any motivational tips or tricks that you use.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over 50s. This will open a new browser window.

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