Dear Diana, I wonder if you could help? I have recently taken up exercise again after several years and am finding that the day afterwards I feel very stiff and uncomfortable. I get out of breath very easily and wonder if there is one exercise regime I should be doing in preference to others? There’s such a bewildering choice. Sandra Eagles, Northwood
You’re right Sandra – it is bewildering our there! But, stiffness and sore muscles after physical activity is known as [here comes the science!] delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The good news is it’s a sign of your improving fitness and gets less as your muscles get used to the new physical demands. When muscles work hard or in a different way there may be microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, but it’s quite normal. Achiness and stiffness a day or two after exercising can affect anyone, regardless of your fitness level. But, exercising with warmed-up muscles reduces the chance of injury and will improve your performance. So, Sandra, before your exercise regime simply march on the spot for a minute or two to raise your heart rate and warm up your muscles. (Be vigorous and swing your arms).
You mention you are breathless which may indicate some cardio vascular problems so it’s important that you don’t overdo things. Always start any new activity programme gently and gradually. I recommend Pilates exercises classes for you, a form of exercise that focuses on balance, posture, strength and flexibility and is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. Pilates targets specific muscles in a controlled way avoiding DOMS and placing less strain on your cardio vascular system. But if you really want to ease back into exercise go online and look for my easy to use DVD – EasiFit – ease into fitness and let me know what you think. you could help?
Help, Diana, my ankles seem to be permanently swollen. Even in the morning they are a little swollen but as the day wears on they definitely puff up more. Do you have any tips for reducing them? Tina Shaw, Manchester
Answer Dear Tina, how distressing for you. Technically, your problem is a build-up of fluid and puffiness of the skin and is called an Oedema. It is most common in the feet and ankles where the fluid accumulates under the skin and this causes your swelling. Common causes of oedema are immobility or standing for long periods So I’m not sure what accounts for yours? But don’t worry unduly, it’s normal to have some swelling in your legs at the end of the day, particularly if you’ve been sitting or standing for a long time. And an oedema is often temporary and can clear up by itself. But I would suggest, that you make time to lie down and put your feet up. Ideally place your legs up on pillows to raise them above your heart, and rest.
Taking exercise, even brisk walking helps pump fluid from your legs back to your heart and watching what you eat and following a low-salt diet may reduce fluid build up and swollen ankles. But, Tina, if your feet and ankles stay swollen see your GP. It may be an indication of a more serious underlying health condition which needs to be treated.
“Animals are like little angels, sent to earth to teach us how to love. They don’t get angry or play silly games. They are always there for us.” Whitney Mandel
I’m a cat lover and Maisie, my black and white moggie is important to me. If you’re an animal lover you know how good it is interacting with your pet, far less threatening than with human beings! Petting an animal causes the release of endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters) which have an extremely positive impact on one’s health and wellbeing.
Recently wearing my Lady Taverners “hat” (I’m President of the charity’s Surrey region) I had the privilege of assisting 15 youngsters with physical and mental disabilities, (accompanied by their carers) from 2 special Surrey schools, when they visited a Farm Park in Surrey. Encouraged by the delightful Bockett’s Farm staff they got up close and personal to many farm animals and it was a joy to watch their excitement and happiness. Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy involving animals as a form of treatment. If we see animals at rest or in a peaceful state, this can signal to us safety, security and feelings of well-being. The simple act of stroking a pet can lower blood pressure reducing physical as well as emotional stress. Just watching fish is known to reduce stress (think of all those tanks in dental or medical waiting rooms!)
It was a joy to watch our young people, many unable to speak, as they cuddled small rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, while others petted the donkeys, goats and lamas. They were beside themselves with excitement to ride in the farms tractor trailer, but the highlight of the day was to cheer on their favourite in the Pigs Race! The power of pets and farm animals is becoming a vital tool in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and disorders for both young and old alike. Particularly those associated with mental health, helping to improve social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Although some domestic pets may transmit disease or inflict injury, a friendly pet can help many physical and mental issues. Companion animals, in addition to their well-known role as helpers to the handicapped, can help alleviate depression and loneliness and ease the social pain of aging in our society. “Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms” George Eliot
Ex 1 WAIST WHITTLER
To improve your waistline and posture stand with feet apart, arms up at shoulder level, elbows bent with fingertips touching. Pull in your tum, keep elbows up, twist upper body only and take your arms and head to look around right. Come back to centre and twist on around to look left (keep hips facing forward). Twist 5 times to each side.
Ex 2 TOP UPS
To improve bust line and tone up flabby underarms, stand or sit and raise arms up to shoulder level. Bend elbows, turn your hands to grasp the opposite arm firmly at wrist level. Hold them tight and with short firm movements “push up” imaginary cuffs. Feel your chest muscles jump and your underarm muscles working. This is an effective isometric exercise. Repeat 20 times
Ex 4 LOVELY LEGS
To tone up leg muscles roll over to your right side. Bend knees stacking left leg on top of right leg. Extend your right arm and rest your head. Place left hand on floor in front of waist for support (don’t roll forward or backward). Keep right leg bent but straighten out left leg. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out lead with left heel and lift your left leg as high as comfortable. Feel your outer thigh muscles working. Lower leg and repeat 10 times. Now roll over to left side, stack right leg on top of left with knees bent. Now, straighten right leg and leading with right heel repeat lifting and lowering 10 times.
Ex 3 TUM TONE UP
To flatten your tum lie down on your back with knees bent, feet on floor shoulder width apart. Place hands up on your thighs. Pull your tum in and push back of your waist onto ground, tilting your pelvis forward. Maintain this “pelvic tilt” and take a deep breath in. As you breathe out lift your head and shoulders up, sliding your hands towards your knees. Relax back down and repeat 10 times.
Is there anything we can do to look after our hands as we age, and in particular to avoid the knobbly finger joints that we see on some older ladies?
Regards, Shirley Tracy, North Yorkshire
Holding back the years on our face is one thing but a quick look at hands usually reveals age. Hands are exposed to chemicals, smoke and UV radiation causing skin to age. The protein Collagen is responsible for keeping the skin on our hands plump and fleshy but hormones stimulating collagen production decreases during the menopause ageing them.
Diet low in essential fatty acids can cause rough skin patches so eat foods such as salmon and sardines, nuts and seeds rich in fatty acids, or consider taking supplements. If skin is dehydrated deep lines and painful cracks can appear so aim to drink at least two litres of water a day. Colourful fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which help protect against sun damage and also have high water content.
Wear gloves for household and gardening chores, exposure to sun, wind, cold weather, harsh detergents, cleaning products quickly dry out hands. Moisturise your hands regularly, especially after contact with water wearing rubber gloves protect skin from harsh chemicals. Hands soon become chapped in cold winter so moisturise before going out, ideally with products containing SPF 15. Knobbly knuckles, especially on the lower finger joints indicate rheumatoid arthritis so keep hands warm and keep your arthritic fingers moving.
Hello Diana my problem is a bit of a double chin. I sit a lot of the day at my desk and don’t do as much exercise as I used to. Plus I am a bit overweight. How can I tighten up my jaw line? Annie Rushton London
Annie here is a few simple exercises that may help. Do not do the following exercises if you have neck problems.
Exercise 1 Swan
Sit upright on your chair, hold your head high with chin parallel to the floor. Now lift chin up and carefully take your head on back, as far as comfortable. Hold for 5 secs to lengthen out your neck like a swan. Relax and repeat 10 times.
Ex 2 Goldfish
To tighten jowl sit up as before, stick chin forward and open your mouth wide. Pull up lower jaw with a glugging and smacking movement bringing lips
tightly together. Release and repeat 10 times. Now tilt head back a little further, pull lower jaw up and out and repeat glugging action 10 times.
Exercise 3. Pelican
To tighten double chin sit as before, chin forward and bring your lower lip up and over your top lip. Feel cheek muscles working. Keep lips taut as you open and close over top lip 10 times. Now gently tilt your head back and with chin forward as far as is comfortable bring lower lip over top lip and repeat opening and closing 10 times. Feel the muscles under your chin and throat working!
Dear Diana I wear a lot of black which I think looks smart, but I do feel my sallow skin needs cheering up a bit. What advice do you have? Wendy Packman Scotland
Dear Wendy, a solid block of black can create a slim, sombre silhouette but you may need to give yourself and your complexion a “lift” with the addition of colour. It’s imperative to recognise that as we age we lose pigment and colour from our skin, and our complexion and hair colour changes too. Colours help create moods but colours which once suited in our youth or even 10 years ago may do nothing for us in maturity. Wearing a flattering colour next to the skin (particularly pinks and reds) in the form of a scarf or necklace is a subtle way of putting colour back into an older jaded face without having to use much, if any make-up.
Many of us wear black to be safe, but personally I have to feel on top of the world in order to wear it well. If I’m feeling a bit low wearing an all black outfit can be a big mistake! For my work in London I find the trick is to add a colourful scarf, brooch or necklace near my face in a colour that really flatters me. When you get it right, a black outfit can look sensational!