Category Archives: Blogs

eBikes

Something rather exciting happened to me last week.  As a mature woman I took possession of a new bike…possibly only the 4th bike I’ve ever owned!  Cycling at my age is still an option, only riding my new bike is somewhat different from previous “wheels” because it is motorised!

Styles of bicycles change over the years, but cycling is timeless and my super new white bike (with green trimmings of course) is what the cycling trade call an eBike. It looks like rides like a conventional mountain bike, but has an added boost of electric power which gives me an extra push.  This “push” reminds me of when as a little girl my Dad would give my back that little extra “power push” as I wobbled off on my first 2 wheeler bike.

My new bike is just so thrilling to ride pedalling like on a conventional bike but making the ride easier by giving that extra boost of power when needed, such as up and down hilly slopes.  It’s suitable for young and old alike with its electric power helping one travel for longer and making the journey enjoyable.

At first I was concerned that my new form of transport would not do the job of helping me to keep fit.  However it is such a pleasurable experience that I get on my eBike two to three times more often, riding out in the fresh air fearlessly covering longer distances than I did on my conventional mountain bike. I can go fast if required thanks to its small light motor. This doesn’t make the bike at all heavy and its light enough for me to carry up my front steps. The electric motor’s detachable battery comes inside with me, to re-charge in the kitchen alongside my mobile phone. How 21st century am I?

As I’ve proudly pedalled along on my new Gtech eBike I’ve met several people for whom manual cycling had become too painful because of arthritis, back, knee problems and hip replacements. In their 60’s and 70’s they have all splashed out on eBikes. They love the freedom of cycling, feel fit and tell me their electric bikes are the best thing ever because they can now cycle further without pain.

It goes without saying that we were all wearing safety helmets and reflective jackets.

You don’t get older without getting wiser!

I need more than a cat nap

How do I explain to my cat Maisie that I need more than a cat nap to operate efficiently! As Summer Time dawn breaks she wakes me, with a gentle paw tap to my nose, having spent the night curled up on my bed. But it’s far too early in the morning!  Not getting enough sleep doesn’t just make me tired but it impacts on my mood, performance, concentration – and of great importance, the way my body repairs itself.  Consistently sleep-deprived lessens my body’s ability concerning the processes required for muscle tissue, growth hormone and repairs which occur during sleep.

I was interested to read that a recent study by The Sleep Council found those who exercise are more likely to sleep better.  But a word of caution.  I’m of the opinion that it isn’t a good idea to take physical exercise before you go to bed, because the adrenaline is flowing and your heart rate is up. After a workout the brain is very active and with body temperature raised it makes it harder to fall asleep.  Those who want to, or need to exercise in the evening, should do so over two hours before bedtime.

We possibly spend a third of our lives sleeping so it’s important to create an environment that helps us to sleep.  But many of us use our bedrooms for other activities such as discussing important issues with our partners, watching TV or browsing the internet.  Since the bedroom impacts on sleep let’s keep it just for sleep, and possibly for sex, because unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy.

For our  health’s sake, when it comes to work most people need on average seven to eight hours of solid sleep to perform at their best.  If you start scrimping on sleep you’re in danger of becoming too tired to be truly effective.  Try telling that to my cat!

Lack of a good night’s sleep affects both our bodies and minds, and as the research found, also erodes concentration and problem solving ability.  Each hour of sleep lost per night is associated with a temporary loss of one IQ point. “Sleep is the best medication” said the Dali Lama.  Sound advice for both humans and cats!

Fair skin and freckles – sun damage

“Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”… Noel Coward.

My dad had reddish coloured hair, freckles and a naturally pale skin. He also loved to sit in the sun and encouraged me as a child to do the same, to be outside and active in the fresh air and sunshine.  Being sporty I was OK with that, but was disappointed and embarrassed by my constantly pink (read red) skin when I came back indoors!  Of course this was over 50 years ago when it was fashionable to have a “tan”. But like so many of my generation I’m now paying for my misdemeanours.

Scientists have established a link between skin cancers, redheads, fair skin and freckles. Redheads make up 6% of the UK population compared to a mere 1 to 2 % worldwide. Ultraviolet rays, either from sunlight, or artificially generated from sunbeds, can seriously damage one’s DNA.  Having inherited genes from my father, the fair skin and freckles in particular has put me at higher risk of skin cancer.  Nowadays we know to protect our skin with sun protection factor (SPF) and people are advised to spend time in the shade between 11 am and 3pm, to cover up and to wear a T shirt, hat and sunglasses.

Sadly none of this advice was available to my generation back in the 50’s and 60’s when a tan was desirable and fashionable. We smothered ourselves in olive or coconut oil, exposed ourselves our lily white skins, and “fried” in the midday sun.  On our hugely popular package holidays to “The Continent” little did we realise we were stacking up problems which would present themselves as skin cancers or pre-cancerous skin conditions some 30, 40 years later.

My skin damage first became evident on my shins, some 15 years ago. Basal cell carcinoma was diagnosed and treated with horrible creams (a type of local chemotherapy). More recent treatments for sun damage now presenting on my face have been more worrying.   Treatments include “freezing” but for some of the more serious sun damage, minor surgery is the suggested option. If you recognise the link between redheads, freckles, fair skin and a risk of skin cancer get your sun damage checked out.   Take my advice, cover up, use a sunscreen of at least SPF15 on the bits that you cannot cover up, and re-apply sunscreen regularly. And most importantly avoid being “out in the midday sun!”

Cellulite

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Do you have cellulite?  Does the skin on your thighs, hips and stomach resemble pitted orange skin when you pinch it? It probably is cellulite, although some medics dismiss cellulite as just womanly fat!  But cellulite is different, and that ugly, dimpled skin stubbornly fails to shift, even after slimming! 

So what causes cellulite? It’s to do with women’s hormonal make-up and by retention of excess fluid, and an accumulation of excess fat. The combination of fats, water and toxins trapped in the connective skin tissue results in that orange peel appearance, particularly noticeable when the muscles are contracted. In obesity the fat is spongy, flabby – but smooth. Cellulite is not unhealthy, it’s not life threatening, it’s just not attractive! However Cellulite should not be confused with cellulitis. (An inflammation of the skin with a hardened shiny appearance). 

Cellulite occurs in the middle layer of the skin (dermis)) when there is an abnormal accumulation of fat, and toxins (found in coffee, tea, cigarettes and alcohol) and fluids. Fatty cells accumulate to form nodules and

Collagen (a protein) then surrounds the nodules, which become more isolated. Blood capillaries around the nodules become compressed leading to bad circulation. Plasma is excreted, creating an oedema (water retention) and an accumulation of toxins. With the congestion the blood and lymph systems are rendered inefficient.  The skin becomes pitted and takes on the appearance of orange peel.

The female ovary secretes two hormones that play a crucial role in woman’s menstrual, and gestation cycle. The hormone Oestrogen causes water retention, and the hormone Progesterone helps to combat it. An equilibrium results in a  healthy balance, but an excess upsets the balance.  For example if there is a surfeit of oestrogen, water, fats and toxic wastes are retained in the connective tissue, and poor circulation makes the condition worse.  A woman’s menstrual cycle creates natural fluctuations in the level of female hormones each month.

But Hormonal changes are not the only cause.  Circulatory disorders can cause water retention in the tissues of the skin (oedema of legs and ankles).  Tight elastic socks, hold-up stockings, panties, girdles and bras can block the circulatory system (lessening the supply of oxygen to the tissues).  Standing or Sitting in one position, especially with legs crossed impairs the lymphatic system’s circulation and drainage encouraging cellulite. Leading a sedentary life, sitting for long periods at a PC or factory bench encourages bad circulation, and lack of exercise also emphasises the infamous English pear shape! Smoking reduces the skins elasticity making bulges more visible.

Anti-cellulite products, creams, gels and lotions may help. They do not upset the body’s equilibrium; they work on localized areas improving the look and feel of the skin. Exercise will help blood circulation, and toning will benefit the stomach, bottom and leg muscles helping to keep your body free of cellulite. Let’s get down to work…..

Ex 1   Kick back….. To tone the bottom and thighs.

Kneel on floor with hands and knees comfortably apart.  Drop head down, lift left knee and bring to forehead, pull in tummy muscles an arch up your back. Now with a smooth movement look up and at the same time kick leg out behind you.  Repeat 10 times. Change legs and repeat exercise.

Ex 2   Lean back…. to tighten the bottom and tone thighs.

Kneel up straight, arms to your sides. Using your thigh and bottom muscles slowly take your upper body backwards with control and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Ex 3   Bottoms up…..to tighten bottom and tone tum.

Lie on back with arms to sides, knees bent, shoulder width apart, feet flat on floor. Clench buttocks, lift pelvis up and transfer weight onto shoulders. Hold for 5 seconds.  Relax down and repeat 10 times

Ex 4   Side rolls ….to tone bottom and thighs

Sit up with back straight, stretch arms and legs out.  Cross right leg over left at ankles. Clench and lift your bottom, rolling from side to side 10 times. Change legs and continue rocking and rolling 10 times

Strong thighs

If you rush around for hours every day you’ve probably noticed that when your legs are tired your whole body feels achy and you slow down. It’s as though your total wellbeing is dependent on the fitness of your limbs.  Or, if by contrast, you sit around for hours, the chances are you experience  back pain from weak hamstrings and short and tight hip flexors. Whatever your lifestyle it’s important  to  keep your leg muscles strong and to exercise them regularly, since strong legs are essential for mobility.  Strong muscles also provide stability, so if we trip muscles help correct our posture by supporting bones and preventing fractures.  Good balance is essential for maintaining control of your body and will help reduce risk of injury.

Generally speaking women have naturally less leg power than men and many of us complain about our thighs being too skinny, too fat or just not strong enough.  But the shape or size of our thighs, or how we look in jeans really isn’t of great importance.  What really matters is keeping the thigh muscles strong in order to support our bodies, and to help us maintain our physical independence as the years go by.

Our thighs consist of several muscle groups:  The big front muscles, the quadriceps, are made up of four primary muscles. At the back of the thigh are the hamstrings, consisting of three primary muscles. On the outer side of the thighs are the abductor muscles, and on the inside thigh are the adductor muscles…both consisting of 2 primary muscles.  Your lower body is home to some of your biggest muscles and working these larger muscles requires more energy, which means your body burns up more calories. Your gluteus maximus (your bottom) is the largest muscle in your body!

To enjoy everyday activities now and for the years ahead we need to maintain muscle power.  The power generated from your lower half is essential for nearly every sport. Walking and running are simple ways to get the legs working and to keep the muscles strong. Activities such as tennis, golf, hockey, bowling or rowing and cycling are fine examples of leg work, or in the gym walking the treadmill, aerobic and other keep fit classes will all help keep your legs busy.  These activities can also speed up your metabolism helping to burn calories and keep you in great shape!

With strong thigh muscles you’ll be able to safely increase your range of motion. Picking up boxes, moving furniture, carrying equipment or moving furniture becomes easier when your lower body is able to squat down or move freely at the hips, and you will avoid lower back pain. Even if your arms are strong, you can more efficiently lift heavy objects if you bend at the knees and use strong thigh and gluteal (bottom) muscles instead of straining your back.

1        FRONT AND SIDE LIFT To strengthen the quadriceps (front thigh muscles)

Stand and hold back of chair for support. Straighten right leg, point toes and lift leg high out in front and hold for 5 seconds. Keep leg as high as possible and take it around to side and hold for 5 seconds.   Repeat 5 times. Relax leg down and repeat with the left leg.    (Keep supporting leg soft)

2        CHAIR SQUATS To strengthen front thigh muscle

Stand in front of a sturdy chair with feet hip width apart. Keep your weight on your heels and simply pull in your tum, bend upper body forward and lower your bottom toward the chair seat.  Pause before sitting and keeping tummy tight stand up straight again.  Repeat 10 times.  Build-up repletions as thighs get stronger.

3        ABDUCTORS  To work the outer thigh muscle

Lie on your right side, bend your knees, stack them on top of each other, and curl them slightly forward (banana shape).   With right elbow on floor support your head with your hand (alternatively stretch out right arm palm up, rest head on it, use small cushion for comfort).   Place your left hand on the floor (in front of your waist) for support.   Don’t roll forward or backwards!  Pull in  tummy, and tighten bottom.   Flex left foot (toes towards shin), straighten and lift left leg up (lead with your heel) – relax down. Controlling both up and down movements lift and lower 10 times. Roll over and repeat with the right leg. (Adding leg weights increases the intensity still further) 

4        ADDUCTOR To work the inner thigh muscle

Lay on your right side as before. With right elbow on floor support head with hand (or straight arm stretched out, palm up, rest head on cushion). Place left hand in front of waist for support. Take left leg over right knee, bend left knee and place down on floor. Now straighten out lower right leg (in straight line with upper body) and flex right foot.  Lead with heel and lift and lower with short sharp movements 20 times.  Feel the small inner thigh muscles working!   Roll over to left side, take right knee over to floor and repeat this “pulsing” movement with left leg 20 times.

Strong hands and fingers

Our hands and fingers are anatomically complicated areas of our bodies consisting of 27 bones, and for us human beings they play an important role in how we function in both our body and sign language.  It’s fascinating to learn that the 10 digits of two hands, and also the 12 phalanges of 4 fingers (touchable by the thumb), gave rise to our number systems and calculation techniques.  The eight short carpal wrist bones organized into a proximal row work with the bones of the forearm, and a distal row work with the bases of the five metacarpal bones of the hand. The heads of these metacarpals work with the bases of our fingers and thumb (knuckles). Our four fingers each consist of three phalanx bones but our thumb has just two, making a total of fourteen phalanges on each hand.

Most of us will have experienced a minor problem with a finger or bones in the hand or wrist which is not at all surprising because problems occur due to overuse or from everyday wear and tear.  Some problems are caused by injuries but many are the natural process of age, and home treatment is often all that is needed to relieve symptoms.

But it maybe that your fingers, hands, or wrists are swollen, or they burn, hurt, or feel tired, sore, stiff, numb, cold or tingly. Some people will find their hands have turned a different colour such as red or blue as they’ve aged, or bony knobs on finger joints have appeared, possibly a sign of arthritis. But the hands and fingers are also areas where many people experience pain as the years roll by.  Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect any joint in your body, including those in your hands and fingers in which case you may experience swelling, or stiffness in the fingers, especially in the morning and your joints feel warm, tender to the touch and don’t move as well as they did!

We need strong wrists and fingers to do everyday tasks like carrying groceries, equipment, opening jars, and lifting suitcases or young children.  Strong wrists, hands and fingers are especially important for manoeuvring movements in order to complete everyday tasks, and to maintain body positions during work and play to avoid injury. But far too many of us (and that includes me) spend long periods of time in front of our computers, typing for hours, with resulting aches and pains.  We spend a lot of the day with our elbows bent and our hands in a pronated position (palms turned down).  A lot of stress is put on our hands and wrists over the course of a day, so we should take time out to care for these hard workers! Simple stretches and exercises can help eliminate pain and build strong, useful hands. Hands supinated (palms turned up) will counterbalance the stresses and strains. 

Ex 1   PRAY         To relax hands, wrists and arms when at computer         

Sit back from your computer and lift both arms and elbows up in front of chest.  With fingertips pointing upwards place them together in praying position.  Now stretching out your fingers and wrists press palms and base of hands together very hard.   Hold for 10 seconds.  Relax and repeat 5 times

Ex 2   FISTS         To strengthen hand, fingers and increase range of movement.

Make a gentle fist and wrap your thumb across your fingers.  Squeeze very hard and hold for 10 seconds. Release and spread your fingers out wide as possible and hold for 10 seconds.  Repeat with both hands at 5 times.

Ex 3   GRIP          To improve strength and grip

Place a soft ball in your palm.  Simply squeeze it as hard as possible, hold for 10 secs and release.  Repeat 5 times in each hand

Ex 4   SHAKE OUT       To relax hands and release cramp

Simply lift up and shake your hands as if you are drying them after washing. Keep shaking rapidly 20 times. Relax and repeat 5 times.

Ex 5  PULL BACKS     To release tension and improve flexibility of wrist

Extend your right arm and hand out in front of you with fingers pointing upwards.   With the left hand use pressure to pull your fingers back towards you and hold for 10 seconds.  Relax and repeat 5 times.  Now extend left arm and using right hand repeat the stretching exercise.

Flabby upper arms

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If you feel uncomfortable wearing sleeveless dresses or fashionable T shirts because of flabby underarms you are not alone. But if you are feeling self-conscious about them it’s time to do something to improve their appearance. Although there is no quick-fix method that specifically targets arm fat, it is possible to significantly improve the appearance by combining specific arm toning and muscle building exercises, plus plenty of aerobic exercise and a healthy diet.

Many of us neglect the two most visible areas of our bodies, namely our hands and arms. We spend time, effort and money on age-defying products and treatments for our faces and neck but little or no effort in fighting the signs of ageing by firming and toning our arms.  Flabby upper arms are caused firstly by age and secondly by body fat. Arms are prone to flabbiness because as the years advance, our skin loses its elasticity and this is particularly noticeable in the upper and back of our arms. The second cause is body fat, so we need to lose weight and reduce excess flab and fat.  However if you experience a dramatic weight loss through dieting this may add to the problem resulting in saggy excess upper arm skin. Arms deserve the same attention as our faces but all too often we see the contrast of someone having a youthful-looking face, but “old” hands and arms!

Although there are some differences between the skin on your face and the skin on your body all these areas need attention too.  Any products and ingredients that work for faces, to renew and improve skin tone and discolorations, can work well on hands and arms too! Non-abrasive, gentle exfoliation can help, as can dry skin brushing, by removing built-up dead surface skin, to reveal the radiant, healthy skin hiding beneath. Be liberal with nourishing body lotion on your arms after your bath or shower, and in summer time always use sun protection to prevent the appearance of dark skin patches and “sun spots”.  If you like your arms to appear lightly tanned there are fabulous, yet inexpensive fake tans available from high street chemists to give your arms (and legs) a youthful, vibrant appearance.

There are two ways to help get rid of flabby arms.  Exercise is the healthiest option because it also benefits the heart, mind and many other parts of the body. Cosmetic procedures, such as liposuction can get rid of fat, flabby arms, but it is an expensive and risky medical procedure, and it won’t tone up the arm muscles or remove saggy skin.

Your front upper arm muscles, the biceps need to be strong  to pick up, to push and to pull. The triceps, back arm muscles work with the biceps to produce strength and movement and are primarily responsible for straightening your arms. If you are inactive the triceps will become floppy.

BICEPS LIFT To strengthen front arm muscle/biceps

Sit or stand, feet shoulder width apart. Tuck elbows tightly into your waist.    . With palms uppermost hold hand weights or full, small water bottles out in front at waist level. Keeping elbows tucked in tight simply lift weights to shoulders and lower back down with control 10 times.

2        TRICEPS TURN  To firm up floppy backs of upper arm/triceps muscle

Sit or stand holding weights or bottles as before, pull in tummy and maintain good posture. Bend elbows hold weights up at chest level, pull shoulders back together taking elbows behind you. Hold upper arms in this position throughout exercise. Now straighten back your lower arm only down behind your body (turning fists outwards).  Now bend elbows and bring weights back up to chest level. Keeping upper arms steady repeat 10 times. Feel triceps working and tightening flabby “Batwings”!

3        FINGERS AND FLINGS To tone up arms and expand chest

Stand or sit.   Raise arms up to shoulder level in front of chest, elbows bent and touch fingertips together, palms down.   Part fingertips, push arms and shoulders back and expand chest. From this position open arms wide and fling hands back (palms downwards) working upper back, bringing shoulder blades together repeat flings 10 times. Now from start position part fingertips, bend elbows, fling arms open but turn palms uppermost and push hands back. Repeat routine 10 times.

4        TRICEPS DIPS to work underarm muscles

For this strong exercise you need a STURDY chair (or bench) for support.  Stand with back to chair making sure your bottom is close and place hands behind you on support.  Keep your abs tight and lower your upper body down.  Now using your triceps muscles push your body back up again and feel those muscles working!

Repeat with care 10 times.