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Rosemary Conley CBE

Everybody wants a flat stomach, particularly as we get a little older when sadly gravity seems to work against us. So, what can we do?

Before we start, let’s break down what is happening to our body. When we are younger, our everyday lifestyle almost certainly caused us to be active – going to work, coping with young children and all the normal ‘juggling of life’. All of these activities automatically helped us to keep pretty fit and slim. We wanted to look our best in our job so, without realising it, we were standing tall and probably adopting a good posture. As a result of all of this our tummy was flatter and our back was stronger - all because we were automatically engaging our core, a vital group of muscles that work together around our torso and enable us to stay strong and upright and move easily.  If you are going to lift something heavy, always engage your core first.

As we approach our mid-to-later years, our lifestyle inevitably changes. Many folks do not stay as fit and strong as they used to be and gaining weight is not uncommon. Often our core loses its strength with the consequence that our shoulders may droop a little, our tummy muscles relax and our posture and back muscles become weaker. Now, I’m not talking about vanity here but instead, something much more serious and that’s pain. Truly, it is greatly in our interest to take preventative measures while we are relatively fit and able, to help prevent and avoid debilitating pain which so often affects people in later life.
I know that if I were carrying excess weight, my feet and knees would grumble. I try hard with my posture (when I remember) and I make every effort to counter these age-related weaknesses to prevent further happenings. Experiencing these issues is part of the reason for creating this website.

We all have a choice as to how we live our lives. Are we going to give in to old age or are we going to jolly well do our absolute best to stay strong, fit and healthy to give ourselves a fabulous active life that we can live to the full for as long as we are on this planet?

Over the next few weeks we are going to focus on specific ‘staying young’ ideas and activities to keep you in great shape. 

This week Mary explains what we can do to create a strong and healthy back that will hold us in good stead for the future. We have recorded a brand-new fabulous fitness programme where Mary demonstrates a gentle Back Workout that will help us keep our back stronger and healthier, and hopefully help prevent us from experiencing back pain later on in life.

Recipe of the Week

This delicious winter casserole oozes flavour without even having to open a bottle of red wine. Suitable for freezing
Serves 4
Per serving: 294 calories, 8g fat (excluding accompaniments)
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 2½ - 3 hours
400g lean chopped casserole beef
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
700ml beef stock (using a beef stock cube or beef stock pot)
2 x red wine stock pots
200g button mushrooms, washed
Fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Dry fry the chopped onions in a non-stick pan with the beef until the meat changes colour then place in an ovenproof casserole dish. 
  2. Add the chopped carrots, the chopped tomatoes, and the stock together with the beef stock cube/pot and the two red wine stock pots, reserving the mushrooms till later.
  3. Add three sprigs of fresh thyme, plus a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme and season with freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Cover the casserole with a lid then place in a moderate oven (180°C, 350°F, Gas 4) for 30 minutes then turn the oven temperature down to 170°C, 325°F, Gas 3 for a further 60 minutes. 
  5. After an hour, remove the casserole from the oven and check if there is enough liquid. Stir well, adding more water if necessary. Now add the button mushrooms and replace in the oven for another hour. 
  6. If the liquid is too thin, thicken with a heaped teaspoon of cornflour mixed with a little cold water and stir into the casserole until it thickens.
  7. Serve with mashed potatoes and green vegetables.
For more recipes click here to visit the website

Fun, Facts & Fitness from Mary Morris MSc.

If you have been unfortunate enough to suffer a really bad back you will, no doubt, have become extremely wary of it happening again. 

Most of us at some point will experience some back pain and, thankfully, in most cases, time is the best healer. Just twice in my life I have found myself unable to move at all as my back went into spasm.  The first time was soon after the birth of my enormous twins (8lb and 7lb1oz!) and I realised just how bad it can be.  But gradually it does heal itself and you get back to moving normally, but you’re always aware that it could happen again - which it did a few years later!

I was running my fitness business out in the community when, unbelievably, I used to transport exercise bikes in the back of an estate car and abdominal boards on the roof rack!  No back can withstand that kind of pressure, regularly loading and unloading these cumbersome and heavy items, for very long and I bet, for most of you, your back has given you trouble after lifting something heavy or when you have carried on gardening for far too long.

Really, we should be on all fours (as we used to be before humans started walking upright) where the load is spread evenly along the spine and we had the stability of more contact with the ground.  Standing up on two feet has put a lot of pressure on the lower back which is where most of our problems are centred.  But help is at hand with our new Back Workout on the website which you can tap into if you are recovering from a bad back or simply want to prevent another one.  If you know someone with a chronic bad back and you think they should move more, you might like to direct them to this short and valuable programme*. I hope it will give them the confidence to have a go.

*Important: If you have a serious back problem or have had surgery on your back please check with your medical practitioner before starting any back programme.

Some important points you need to know if you have a bad back:


  • Bed rest.  It used to be the recommendation but not now. Try to keep moving, however gently.
  • Standing still. This is a real no-no.  Your back will feel like it is seizing up completely.
  • Long car journeys. If you have to travel a long distance, make regular stops and get out of the car and walk around.
  • Impact – as in running and jumping. If you are a regular runner and your back keeps giving you trouble, you may need to find another cardio activity that is non-impact such as swimming or cycling.  Avoid high impact aerobic classes.
  • Lifting or moving heavy objects.  It is just sensible not to do so. But if you have to, always bend your knees and let the legs do the work!


  • Build a strong core. Pilates is just perfect for this.  In addition to our Beginners and Intermediate programmes on the website we now have Advanced Pilates in which I demonstrate how to build up to doing 'The Hundred' and 'The Power 5'.  These are the ultimate 'core' exercises.  (Not to be done when your back is going through a painful phase though. Wait until it feels ready.)
  • Plenty of Walking.  This is enormously beneficial to your back.  It loosens it up and increases blood flow which is extremely restorative.
  • Daily Mobility Moves. Exercises such as the Cat on all fours or the Pelvic Tilt on your back (as demonstrated in the Back Workout) are ideal when your back is sensitive.  Then build up from there. 

This Week's Fitness Challenge

  1. Build on your daily walking with intervals of high/low intensity.  Lampposts are the perfect landmarks.  Go as fast as you can to one and then ease down to the next.  You will feel the real value of it and you will get home quicker!
  2. Do a Pilates Programme x 3 this week. Choose your level and if you are unfamiliar with ‘The Hundred' and 'The Power 5' as demonstrated in our new Advanced Pilates video take a look at them first before attempting them.
  3. Try the Back Workout and repeat it once each week if you can.
  4. Short of time?  Put on a Rosemary Conley exercise DVD. (Available in our shop.) They cover everything you need in one session. 
Did you know...

A casserole (originally from a French word for pan) is a large, deep pan or bowl used for cooking a variety of dishes in the oven; it is also a category of foods cooked in such a vessel. To distinguish the two uses, the pan can be called a 'casserole dish' or "casserole pan", whereas the food is simply 'a casserole'. The same pan is often used both for cooking and for serving.

Casserole or Stew?

There is little difference between a casserole and a stew. A purist would say that a casserole goes in the oven, heating the dish from all directions, while a stew goes on the stovetop and is heated from the bottom. 

If you like a good stew have you tried our Beef and Beer Stew recipe?

And finally...

Looking after ourselves has never been more important so let’s make a commitment to do everything we can to keep ourselves fit and healthy.

Have a great week!

With love and best wishes,

Rosemary Conley CBE DL


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