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Easy Everyday Exercises
Take Twenty and Tone Up

I started doing these exercises only recently. About three years ago I was warned off many of those activities that, until then, had kept me fit and toned-up. Fine, I thought. Approaching retirement, I'd had a good run and figured this advice was my ticket to spend more time writing. And that's exactly what I did. Like many of you, I sat for hours at a time, exercising my brain and my fingers as they skipped around the keyboard, but the rest of my body did little else. Other activities were minimal - wandering about the house on odd occasions, shuffling to and fro in the kitchen while preparing a meal. I did try to slot in a daily walk, but the irregularity of it was hardly more than a token gesture. It was obvious I was putting on weight, so I adopted “The No-diet Diet” (see HL07) and was content to be achieving some success. Then, one day, I was in front of the mirror and noticed my upper body had gone to seed. There was no muscle definition to speak of and skin that had once been taut and smooth had become wrinkled and saggy. The old adage sprang to mind - use it, or lose it. The proof of that saying was right in front of me and I didn't like what I saw. My choice was simple - do something about it or just wither away.

I borrowed some appropriate exercises from various sources and have been performing them religiously, twenty minutes every day for ten weeks so far. Even my wife has commented on the difference, and she should know! Apart from improved appearance, I seem to have more energy, certainly fewer aches and pains. My weight has stayed about the same, but I believe that is because the small amount of muscle I'm building is heavier than the fat it is replacing. My plan now is to continue with the program. Maybe you'd like to give it a go.

No expensive equipment is necessary. Most of what you will need, you already have - a floor, a wall, some soft cushioning and a stick about a metre long. A mirror would also be good, plus a few spare minutes each day. I have divided the exercises into sets for both convenience and comfort. That way I find I'm wasting less time switching from one type to another, then back again. Plus, they seem less tiring.

The watchword is "easy". Anything that's hard-going won't be in favour for long, and nothing is likely to happen overnight - you'll need to persevere for a while before you notice any remarkable improvement. To complete the entire session, you'll need up to twenty minutes a day, perhaps less to start with, but I wouldn't advise rushing if you can't spare that. Just cut out some of the exercises and work through the rest at a steady, comfortable pace - anything's better than nothing.

Unless there is some medical reason you shouldn't perform a specific activity, try them all; but for peace of mind, check with your doctor first. If you are like I was, your initial flexibility will be limited. Just move or stretch to the point where it becomes uncomfortable and go no further. Same with the number of repetitions. My physiotherapist suggested building up to twenty repetitions of each, so I started off with five. Next day, I had no painful repercussions, so I increased to ten. That was sufficient to make me aware that I still had some muscles, even if I couldn't see them yet. I continued with the ten repetitions for a week, then put them up to eleven. Adding one a week has brought me to twenty, and that's where I'll stay for a while. The way I figure it, enough is enough. I never wanted to be Mister Muscle, just reasonably fit and healthy.

That’s it for talk. Now it’s time to bite the bullet and tone up…

man exercising - standing

Upper Body - can be done standing, sitting, or lying down.
Very easy, this set tones up mainly chest, arm and shoulder muscles, but will also have a small impact on neck, upper back, wrists and hands. The idea is to exert pressure to tense the muscles, then release. The harder you push, the better the final result. On the last push of each set, whether you are doing five or twenty, hold the pressure and your breath as you count the number of repetitions you have done, less if you start to feel uncomfortable or dizzy.

1. With hands in front of the torso, place the finger-tips together pointing out, palms apart as if holding a baseball between them. Keep them this way while pushing fingers together as if trying to squash the imaginary ball. You will feel tendons in the hands straining, plus arm and chest muscles tightening. Hold the pressure and count one, then release. Push again and count two, etc. Repeat each push ten times, breathing in deeply as you push, exhaling as you release.

The following variations are performed the same way, but with the hands in different positions:

2. Keeping elbows bent with forearms extended in front, turn the wrists until the fingers are pointing at the ground and lower the hands to about waist height.
3. Elbows still bent, swivel the hands so the finger-tips are pointing at the ceiling and bring up until they are in front of the face.

man exercising - standing

4. Keeping fingers together and palms apart, extend directly in front of the chest so that the arms are at full stretch.
5. With arms still straight, drop the hands to their lowest point, fingers pointing at the floor, elbows and upper arms just touching the body - try to keep the shoulders back.
6. Finally, stretch the arms with hands as high as they will go above the head. This is probably the most uncomfortable of the "squeeze-type" exercises, but it's the last one of this set, so you can breathe a huge sigh when you are done.

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