I am often asked how I stay so fit and slim at 50. The answer of course is a mixture of genetics, lifestyle, diet and exercise. I may be lucky to a degree but if you look at most people that fit in that bracket, the reality is that they work at it.There is one element above all other however that has made a difference. I stretch and clench! I have done it from my teens, it now comes automatically and I don't give it a thought.So what is stretch and clench?It started after I left school, when the netball and cross country stopped and I noticed a big drop in my fitness level. Although naturally slim I noticed that my legs ached when I went upstairs and walked uphill. There was no denying I was losing fitness and tone in my legs, stomach and bottom. At the time 'callanetics' was all the rage, an exercise routine that involved small multiple repetitions of a muscle group. The craze was based on the premise that lots of small muscle contractions equalled one big one. The results seemed impressive even if it was incredibly tedious. Never the less I got into the habit of holding my stomach muscles in as I sat down in a boring job.The breakthrough came however when I discovered that I could stretch my leg muscles and clench my bum as I walked. Don't we all do that I hear you cry? The reality is 'no, we don't'. Try this out and feel the difference.Give it a trySet off walking normally, focus on how your legs, bums and stomach feel. Now hold your stomach in and stride out. Deliberately lengthen your stride so that you feel a big stretch along the front of each thigh. As each leg comes back clench your bottom hard, really squeeze. Once you have got the hang of it quicken your pace.
You may feel as though you are 'sashaying' a little but you can feel the difference that it makes and if you are walking fast enough your heart rate will rise.Speed walking burns more calories than joggingStudies undertaken at the University of Massachusetts revealed that 'speed or race walking' at high speeds burns more calories than jogging at the same pace. Seems hard to believe I know but race-walking was found to burn 120-130 calories per mile compared to 110-120 for jogging.Race walking also improves your upper body fitness too as you need to pump your arms to walk really fast. Keeping fit this way is much better for your knees and hips than running which is much higher impact. You can read more about the benefits of walking on the NHS website here.An ardent dog walker, I have walked this way all my adult life. It comes automatically now and I hate dawdling along with other people. My children have long joked that I walk as though I am trying to get a stick out of my bottom!Whatever it takes I say! If you want to be fit, 50 and still in your size 10 jeans then give it some thought.