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In the last few months I have been gaining some extra weight

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In the last few months I have been gaining some extra weight, I haven’t changed my eating habits so just can’t account for the weight gain. I am 70 and attend yoga classes twice a week but do little other exercise apart from walking to the shops. Can you recommend anything to help stabilise my weight? The health club where my Yoga class is held also offers Pilates- would this be suitable for me?

Hetty M. Stanley, Portsmouth
Yoga is more about how you feel and Pilates about how you look. Yoga positions build endurance in every large muscle group, but strength is not the main focus. Pilates however, uses resistance and weights to build strength and works all the muscle groups resulting in a leaner, stronger body. Pilates aims to strengthen the body in an even way, with particular emphasis on core strength to improve general fitness and wellbeing.

Pilate’s exercises could be beneficial, but would not necessarily help you to lose weight.
In order to lose weight you must watch your diet closely, because many people as they age cannot understand their weight gain, commenting they eat the same as they have always done. But the truth is they are less active than in previous years. So excess calories in the food consumed simply appear as unsightly fatty deposit around their bodies. So look to reduce your food intake and walk more.

Walking is a simple, effective way to help maintain a good weight and uses the main muscles of the body. I would advise you to get out there, but don’t stroll, walk briskly! This extra activity will burn up those excess calories, help control your weight and improve your general wellbeing. Aim to walk at least 30 extra minutes each day.

I am thinking of undertaking a very short course of sunbed treatments

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I am going on holiday next month and am feeling rather pasty. I am thinking of undertaking a very short course of sunbed treatments just to get a base tan, but my friends say it would be dangerous. Could such a short course be detrimental to my long term health?
Amelie Sweeting, Kensington

 

A tan is your body’s attempt to protect itself from the damaging effect of UV rays so sunbeds are no safer than tanning in the sun, and may be more harmful depending on the strength of the sunbed’s UV rays.  Ultraviolet (UV) rays increase your risk of developing skin cancer (both malignant and non-malignant melanoma). Many sunbeds give out greater doses of UV rays than midday tropical sun.

People under 25 frequently are at greater risk of developing skin cancer in later life and time on sunbeds can cause skin to age prematurely, look coarse, leathery and wrinkled. Skin damage from UV rays can take up to 20 years to appear and can damage your eyes, particularly if you don’t wear goggles.

Don’t use sunbeds if you’ve fair, sensitive skin that burns easily and tans slowly, or have a history of childhood sunburn. Also beware if you’ve lots of freckles and moles or take medicines or use creams that make your skin sensitive to sunlight.  If you still decide to use a sunbed limit your sessions and tell the operator about your skin type.

However there is a safer option.  Before you go away I advise you to apply one of the many moisturisers containing…..which gives your skin a healthy looking glow at no risk.

Have wheels will travel 

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I got a letter from a reader who said – My granny started cycling at 97 years old. She has been doing ten miles per day – and now we don’t know where the heck she is! Ha! But joking aside, four years after the success of Team GB’s cyclists at the 2012 Summer Olympics thousands of us, young and old alike, regularly don our “go faster stripes” and crash helmets to race off at high speed, in search of fitness and fun. Back in the 80’s the introduction of the Mountain Bike, with its sturdy frame and wide tyres for added stability and durability tempted me. I took to my own bike in a big way and I still love to cycle today! Cycling gives us an opportunity to discover places unseen from a car – woodland paths, unmade tracks, riverside tow paths, and just sometimes a mountain!

Let’s remind ourselves of the health benefits of cycling: – stronger leg muscles, (quadriceps and calf in particular) plus improved circulation – and all from simply pushing pedals around. However, when the going gets rough the tough get going, and cycling is a superb aerobic exercise, resulting in a fitter heart and more efficient lungs. Biking on a fine day can be an enjoyable family affair, suitable for people of all ages and abilities, including those with physical disabilities. Back sufferers and those overweight can benefit too, because their body weight is supported on a bike. An outdoor spin has the added advantage of fresh air, but only if we miss out busy roads with dirty vehicles belching out fumes! (Of course we could wear a mask.) And did you know, an hour of cycling can burn up 400 – 650 calories keeping us in good shape. But if “on yer bike” doesn’t excite you – then what about “getting your skates on”.

Skating in all forms is a healthy, gutsy, indoor or outdoor sport, which promotes terrific calorie burn with its exhilarating aerobic exercise. It is excellent for working and toning bottom muscles (gluteals), and front thigh muscles (quadriceps). And by turning and jumping at high speeds, it tones and trims the inside and outside thigh muscles (adductor and abductor). Skating can be dangerous, so if you’re a beginner take a few lessons and wear adequate protection. From personal experience I recommend wrist guards, helmets, knee and elbow protectors.

Indoor skating has the advantage of being on a clean consistent surface, which discourages impact injuries (a risk with outdoor skating). Skating to music at the rink is a plus, encouraging rhythm and style and is excellent for balance.

So if you want to put distance between your granny and you – maintain your fitness through summer, get those wheels turning, have fun and keep fit in the fast lane!

I am looking down at my legs in despair

I am looking down at my legs in despair; they haven’t seen the light of day since last summer.  Do you have any tips on how I can make them look half reasonable for my summer holiday which is in a month’s time?

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You can help your poor pins by giving them a little TLC!  Start by removing unsightly hair, and then exfoliate by giving them a good scrubbing to remove dry scaly skin.  An old fashioned “loofah” does a good job, towel dry and pile on a nourishing skin cream. If you have cellulite use one of the special brand creams containing caffeine and anti-oxidants to target the problem areas. When applying any creams or lotions massage the whole length of legs, starting from toes and working upwards with sweeping strokes, to boost circulation and reduce water retention.

It’s never been easier to give your legs a healthy glow and by simply using a fake tan avoiding skin damage from the sun’s rays. Some products can be applied professionally in the beauty salon, it’s not cheap but the results are worth it.   Other self-tanning products can be applied at home before going to bed.  They are colourless, dry quickly and give spectacular results by morning without ruining your bed linen.  Some well-known brands of moisturisers also contain a gentle fake tan, which applied daily will build up to transform your pale legs with a subtle glow. Look out for the latest self-tan products which come in the form of in-shower tanning lotions to give you a glowing pair of pins the moment you step out!

Friendships

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The harsh reality of life for us females in the 21st century is the need to work hard and for longer if we want to enjoy the extended longevity of life at this time in history. Maintaining good health is an important tool in order for us to succeed, so we need to learn how to help ourselves by tackling some of the issues which affect our wellbeing, such as physical and mental fitness, nutrition and relationships.  Of course working hard is important, but so too is playing hard, and we need to get the balance right if we are to keep fit and be well.   Play mates, whether they are male or female can play their part too in keeping us happy, healthy and wise.

I think a true friendship is one of the most important relationships we can have with another person. Some people will be fortunate to remain close friends forever throughout life.  I make a great effort to keep up the relationships I share with my special old friends, and try to make them aware of how lucky I feel for having them beside me, through both the good and bad times. I enjoy telling those special friends how much I care about them, and express my joy at having them in my life, and how I cherish our relationships both night and day.

Life is full of physical, emotional and mental challenges and knowing we are not alone is important to us all, whatever our age. The old saying “A problem shared is a problem halved” is so true.  Bottling up emotion and worry can be seriously detrimental to our health and simply talking through our concerns can make all the difference to one’s state of mind.   Although many of us have families who would listen to us, we often would prefer to shield them from our worries and concerns.  With some friends we sense that our souls are closely connected, and as soul mates we know that wherever we are, whatever we do or whatever we say – they’ll be there for us – to listen and still remain friends.  I am sure you have many good friends but because of distance you are unable to talk as often as you would like to.  However, when you do it’s quite remarkable how you are able to pick up straight away where you may have left off years ago.  Perhaps this is what’s meant by “Forever Friends”!

Backs

The muscles of your back are the largest muscle group in your body and having strong upper back muscles is imperative to performing well. A strong back allows us to do daily tasks, such as house and garden chores and enables us to lift heavy objects. Strong muscles help to prevent injury during sports, especially upper-body sports like tennis, golf and swimming.  Back pain is very common but normally improves within a few months; however it can sometimes be difficult to identify the actual cause. Pain often occurs for no apparent reason, doctors call this “non-specific” back pain, or it can be the result of an injury such as a sprain or strain. Sciatica is caused by irritation of the nerve that runs from the pelvis, through your buttocks to feet.  Pain is sometimes due to a slipped (prolapsed) disc, where a disc of cartilage in the spine presses on a nearby nerve. These conditions may have additional symptoms such as numbness, weakness or a tingling sensation and are treated differently to non-specific back pain.

Pain in the lower back (lumbago) is particularly common, but pain can be felt anywhere along the spine from the neck down to the hips. Anti-inflammatorys, such as ibuprofen can help relieve, but pain can last a long time and may keep coming back.

Poor posture can cause back problems so it’s important to strengthen and maintain mobility of the back. With bad posture breathing becomes more difficult and the amount of air inhaled is less. Stress is a major cause of back pain but relaxation techniques such as deep breathing will help manage stress. However resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse so help reduce your backache and speed up your recovery by being as active as possible.

Both exercise and stretching can help and swimmingyoga and Pilates are most beneficial. For temporary pain relief apply alternate hot or cold compression packs, such as a hot water bottle followed by a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth. If pain doesn’t start to improve within a few weeks, or gets worse, making it difficult to cope, see your GP. You may be referred to a specialist doctor or a physiotherapist.

Prevention is better than cure so keep your back strong and supple by being active, but always ensure you lift heavy objects by using the correct lifting technique. The trick is to bend your knees and hips, not your back, and if you carry a heavy rucksack use both shoulder straps. Become conscious of your posture, don’t “hunch” your shoulders and whether sitting or walking “think tall”. I find it a good idea to take a short break from sitting in front of my TV or PC to stand up straight every 30 minutes.  Finally check that your bed gives you the correct support and comfort for your weight and build.

Ex 1               SIDE TWIST to improve posture and back mobility

Stand or sit upright, pull in tummy and concentrate on posture.  Bend elbows out, bring your hands up in front of chest, fingertips touching.   Twist from waist only and take upper body, arms and head and look around to right side.  Come back to centre and continue to twist around to left side.  Keeping elbows up and fingertips touching repeat twisting 5 times to each side to work your back.

Ex 2            CIRCLES to release tension in shoulders and upper back       

Stand or sit, bend your elbows, raise arms and place fingertips on shoulders.   Keeping your fingertips in position bring elbows forward together in front of your chest.   Lift elbows upwards and draw an imaginary circle out to either side and on backwards pulling your shoulder blades together as far as comfortable.   Continue circling elbows down to sides then back up to start position.   Repeat circling 5 times clockwise and 5 times anti-clockwise.

Ex 3             BACK STRETCH to relieve back ache

Sit back in a chair, feet flat on the floor.   Place both hands around your right knee and lift your right foot up off the floor.   Bend forward from your waist, bring forehead down onto your knee, or as far as comfortable.   Keep this position, lifting elbows slightly and rounding out your back.   Feel the stretch and hold for 10 seconds.   Return your right foot to the floor.   Repeat movement lifting your left foot and knee up and holding the stretch for a further 10 seconds.

 Ex 4            KNEE ROLLS to help to stretch strengthen and mobilise the lower back.

Lie on your back, arms out, palms facing down, knees bent and together and with a cushion supporting your head. Keep your upper body relaxed, roll your knees to right side, but keep both shoulders on the floor. Relax and hold the stretch for 5 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times, alternating sides. (placing a cushion between your knees may help)

I’m looking for a recommendation for a ‘house shoe’.

Dear Diana,

I work from home and spend a good part of my weekdays around the house. I’m also a fidget so leave my desk 100 times a day to do little jobs around the house, up and down stairs, etc.   I tend to wear slippers for comfort but I’m realising this is not good for my feet. My home is cool, even in summer, so I’m looking for a recommendation for a ‘house shoe’.  Here is my wish list;

Essential;

  1. Comfortable – for all day wear
  2. Supportive – for all day wear
  3. Suitable to wear socks with

Nice to have;

  1. Modern style (neutral and inconspicuous)
  2. Light outdoor use for taking bins out
  3. Washable

Kind regards,

Anna Everitt

Phew!  Anne this is a bit of a tall order but I have a few suggestions.  Like you I work from home spending my time at the PC and taking regular breaks to do a few chores around the house and garden.  Consequently my requirements are somewhat similar to yours so I look for shoes made of natural, supple, durable leather with a fabric lining.  Leather allows the foot to breathe and can provide long term comfort and gentle support.  Shoes need to have a generous space in which to be able to spread your toes naturally, with soles that are shock absorbing, non-slip and provide underfoot cushioning.  Probably like you I don  high heels and dress up for special occasions or conversely fall into the habit of slopping around the house  in non-supporting “ballet type” light, flat shoes.

Neither shoe is good for feet if worn over long periods and both can cause back pain, so look instead for comfortable shoes with posture correct heel height to encourage a good walking position.  Feet vary in both length and width, but happily many of the great shoes around this season have adjustable Velcro fastenings or laces to ensure a great fit.  These comfort shoes are no longer just practical and fuddy duddy, but come in exciting colours and designs to suit most tastes and can look great with both trousers and skirts. The best selection of shoes and sandals I have discovered recently are by Padders, Hotters and Clarks.