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Exercise is an important part of our lives. Staying in shape is one way to increase your life expectancy. Weight bearing exercises are important also for increasing muscle mass and bone density as you age.

Most of us have learned what to do when it comes to exercising. The problem is where and when to get the job done. With a busy lifestyle, making time for exercise is a challenge.

Weight bearing exercises aren’t just for bodybuilders. As you age, especially once you hit the age of forty, you begin to lose muscle mass. For women especially, bone loss becomes a problem. When the body is in need of calcium it can rob it from your bones. Building muscle not only increases their mass but your strength.

Here are five easy toning exercises that can be done anywhere and whenever you have time. At home, at the office, or on vacation, you can do these easy yet extremely effective exercises.

1. The Bridge Butt Lift – Sounds like a plastic surgery technique but it is an easy way to tone your buttocks. Lay down with feet flat on the floor, legs shoulder width apart. Place your hands, palm side down, on either side of your body. Pushing with your feet, squeeze your gluteal muscles and lift your butt off the floor. Hold the position for a count of five to ten and release down to the floor.

2. Squats – Squats work the butt, the hamstring muscles and the quadriceps. If you aren’t sure of proper form, you can use a chair. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and feet firmly planted. Push your butt back as if you were preparing to sit in a chair. Keep your abs tight and your upper body straight. Once you reach chair level stop and hold the position for a count of two to five and release. At the lowest point, place all of your weight on your heels for balance and maximum toning.

3. Reverse Lunges – Lunges work the quadriceps muscles. They can be hard for people with knee problems. A reverse lunge still tones the right muscle groups but with less pressure on the knee. Stand with feet together and arms at your sides. Take one leg and move it backwards until you are in lunge position: front leg bent at a 90 degree angle and back leg extended until you are on the ball of your foot. From this position lower yourself down until the back knee almost touches the floor. Hold for a count of two and return to starting position.

4. Pushups – This is a classic toning exercise that works all areas of the arms plus the chest muscles. If you aren’t comfortable or strong enough to perform a pushup on your toes, lower your body to your knees. Be sure your arms are tucked into the body and your back straight as you lower and lift your body.

5. Crunches – Abdominal muscles can be worked every day to build strength and muscle tone. Lying on the floor in sit up position, lace your fingers behind your head. Squeezing your abdominal muscles, lift your upper body until your lower back is about to come off the floor. Hold for two to five counts and return to starting position.

These five exercise moves can be done whenever you have time. The best thing about exercise is that its effects are cumulative. Even five or ten minutes at a time will work to your advantage.

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Congratulations on losing weight! Maybe you haven’t reached your goal yet, but you are getting there. Changing the way you cook your food can be a big help in the battle to keep the weight off and the fat out.

If you’ve started cooking more at home, that's good. The only way to know for sure what is in your food is to cook it yourself. Using fresh ingredients, there is no need for preservatives which can add unwanted sodium, fat, sugar and calories to your food.

Try these cooking methods as an alternative to frying with oil.

Marinating Your Meats – Marinating foods, especially meats, breaks down the muscle fibers and tenderizes the meat. As the meat sits, the marinade will work its way throughout so every bite is succulent and tender. This technique works well if you plan on grilling or baking your meat.

Broiling Fish – Many people fry fish on the stove top. There is an alternative to frying that leaves less fat on your food. Fatty fish is filled with good fats, but frying introduces extra fat that you can do without. Marinate your fish and then pop it under the broiler. Turn after five or ten minutes for even cooking. When the fish is flaky it’s done. By broiling there is no extra fatty oil added.

Saut̩ing РThis technique is okay for cooking meats and vegetables quickly. Use about a tablespoon of canola or olive oil in your pan and let the oil heat up before adding the ingredients. Food cooks better and faster if it is cut into cubes or strips.

Steaming – Vegetables and rice respond well to steaming. You can buy a rice cooker or, if you like oriental food, invest in a bamboo steamer. Steaming preserves the nutrients and the original flavor of the food without overcooking it.

Stir-frying Meats and Vegetables – Stir frying is a wonderful way to create a meal using very little oil. A tablespoon of oil is heated in the wok and then swirled around so that it coats the bottom and the sides. When the oil is hot the meat can then be added. Not much oil is used so there is no need to drain the meat. Add the vegetables and cook until tender.

Grilling Your Food – This technique works outside in the summer and inside using a grill pan. Gas grills keep the temperature of the meat even and can prevent the charring of the meat that is typical with charcoal briquettes. A non-stick coated grill pan doesn’t need additional oil and you can drain away the fat before serving.

There are many ways to cook food that brings out the flavor without serving up the fat. Try one or all of these techniques for lower fat cooking.

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