Did you know that the shape of your body can play a part in your risk of heart disease?

Being apple-shaped, i.e. having excess weight around your tummy area, increases your risk of heart disease.  Many women in the 40-60 age range are apple-shaped rather than pear-shaped (excess weight around the hips and buttocks) and 'apples' are more at risk of heart disease than 'pears'.

According to NHS UK we should aim for a waistline of less than 80cm (31.5 inches).

Obviously anyone carrying extra weight will benefit from losing some of it, but if you're apple-shaped it's particularly important that you take action to shed that excess waist fat.  We store spare body fat under the skin and also around the vital organs in our abdomen.  Fat around the abdomen causes more health problems than, say, fat carried around the bottom or on the thighs.

This doesn't have to involve really strenuous activity and/or embarrassing trips to the gym....find something that suits you, something that you're more likely to try and to be able to continue with once you've started it.

Dance classes or swimming are enjoyable ways to exercise without really focussing on the fact that you're 'exercising'.  However, if you'd prefer to do something more solitary - simply walking for example - the end results will be just as beneficial.  Our article 'Why does exercise make you sing?' is very helpful in explaining how to use your walks to benefit your heart...it breaks it down into really simple, achievable terms so that you'll know you're getting the right level of activity needed.

As being apple-shaped increases our risk of heart-disease - anything which changes our shape can be beneficial.  If you're unlikely or unable to take up regular exercise outside the home, such as walking, swimming etc., why not try an activity which pinpoints the waist area?  A great way to exercise your abdomen is hula-hooping.

You can hula-hoop in your own home at any time of day or night and it's excellent for your tummy and waist.  Practised regularly, it will change the shape of your body and also, if done for long enough periods, give your heart some gentle aerobic exercise.

Invest in a good quality hoop (those kids' plastic ones are a waste of a time) - you can buy a decent hoop online for £15 to £20.  Have patience...if you've never hooped before it might seem like you'll never be able to do it but, honestly, it will suddenly happen and from there you'll just get better and better.  Be prepared for a few bruised shins at the beginning and some stiff abdomen muscles for a few days (which afterall only confirms how little exercise those muscles have been getting in recent years) and you'll be so glad you persevered.  If you need some inspiration, our article 'Hula-hooping Changed My Life by Cathy Mizula, might help.

Stick your favourite music on or even a tv programme you enjoy watching (you might as well be exercising as sitting down to watch it) and be an apple no more!

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