Category Archives: Exercise

Fitness Is An Attitude of Mind

Fitness is an attitude of mind; I believe “Age is mind over Matter” and if you don’t mind it doesn’t matter!  Ageing is inevitable, a depressing thought and nothing we can do about it, or is there? No, we can’t add years to life but we can add “life” to the years we have!  Maintaining good health enables us to pursue ambitions, hopes and dreams with many older people continuing to lead interesting lives.  Feeling well helps us enjoy the increase in longevity by giving us a sense of wellbeing, relaxation and confidence.

Being fit is being able to do the things you want to do, when you want to do them.  Maintaining fitness should be a necessity of life, not an option! People who get it right may experience a decrease of some physical ability in their 60’s whilst others not at all! Many individuals enter advanced old age still performing at the level of younger adults.

Pensioners now outnumber children for the first time in British history. “Grey power” is growing and without the social and economic restrictions of the past, have the opportunity to travel, make new relationships or continue with further education, irrespective of age, gender, colour, class or creed. So youth had better start realising that there is life after sixty!

Ageing and inability is not the same thing, trouble is today we use our brain instead of our brawn, to the detriment of our physical wellbeing. We sit around too much in work and home, with heart disease, joint problems, osteoporosis and digestive disorders the end results. We need to get out of the habit of disguising physical and some mental problems as “just old age creeping on”.

Recent research by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that just 10 minutes brisk walking also improves one’s mental state by increasing self-esteem and reducing stress and anxiety. It concluded that people who regularly exercise have a 20 – 30% lower risk of depression and dementia. When we’re active chemicals called endorphins are released giving us the “feel good” factor.

Wellbeing is not just about the Body, it’s about the Mind and Spirit too. Being socially active can help reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, stress and worry.  So get out there, and get chatting. Talking through personal worries with others can half a problem, or at least put it into perspective!

Question 1

Sometimes I find myself falling asleep at say 20:00 and sleeping straight through till 07:00. After waking up I often feel as if I haven’t slept at all. My husband says I should just let myself sleep, but surely sleeping for so long cannot be good for you? I usually force myself to stay awake until 23:00 when I feel it’s acceptable to go to bed. Is there a natural way to help me stay awake? I have tried coffee.

Lucinda O’Brien, Kent

Answer 1

You think this is a problem? Well I say “who could be so lucky”; most of us would love the ability to sleep so well and for so long. According to the NHS most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night and you can set a regular bedtime schedule by working out what time you need to wake up. It would appear that your body needs those 9 hours!

Most people will envy you, winding down is a critical stage in preparing for bed and you would appear to be an expert! Personally I find that writing my “to do” list for the next day organises my thoughts.  It clears my mind and a few relaxation yoga type stretches helps relax my muscles. Exercising vigorously has the opposite effect.

For some a favourite way of relaxing is taking a warm bath (not hot), which helps the body reach a temperature that’s ideal for rest. Reading a book, listening to the radio, or gentle hypnotic music and sound effects will calm and relax others.

So Lucinda enjoy your sleep and appreciate just how lucky you are!

.Question 2

Recently I have noticed that my hands have become awfully dry and are peeling. I don’t use moisturizer as I have never had this problem before. Due to my job I have to wash my hands several times a day with antibacterial scrub and hot water. The peeling is rather embarrassing. Can you advise any solution?

Emma Hammerfield, Sutherland

 Answer 2

Emma you don’t say what your job is, but friends of mine in food preparation, hairdressing and nursing complain of dermatitis.  Avoid contact with detergents and other strong cleansing agents or use plastic gloves. Don’t apply hair lotion, hair cream or hair dye, or peel or squeeze oranges, lemons or grapefruit with bare hands. Wear gloves for chopping raw food, especially onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and raw chicken.  Avoid direct contact with metal, wax, shoe, floor, furniture and window polishes and be careful not to get solvents such as white spirit, petrol, trichloroethylene, turpentine and thinners on your skin.

To speed healing wash hands in luke warm water and a gentle skin cleanser without perfume or tar. Best to avoid soap, use soap substitutes instead.  Rinse hands thoroughly under running water and dry carefully with a clean towel, especially between the fingers. Avoid wearing rings, but if you do, don’t wash with soap as it collects behind the ring and irritates the skin.  Apply plenty of moisturizer (emollient) cream after washing hands.

Rubber can cause eczema/dermatitis, so if you wear rubber gloves, put cotton ones inside them. If water gets inside take glove off straightaway, rinse and dry it. Don’t wear gloves for more than 15-20 minutes (they get sweaty) so having a couple of pairs on the go helps.

Remember Emma, even it seems completely healed, your hands are still at risk of dermatitis for at least 4 or 5 months. So keep protecting them and using your moisturizer which forms a layer over your skin helping protect it against irritating substances that might cause your dermatitis to flare again.

Gardening Is Good For Your Health

We certainly feel like we’ve put in a good day’s work, after gardening for hours on end. But is gardening really considered good exercise? For the most part, yes. According to the University of Virginia, gardening rates up there with other moderate to strenuous forms of exercise, like walking and bicycling. It all depends on what gardening task you are doing and for how long. Like any other form of exercise, you have to be active for at least 30 minutes for there to be a benefit.

What Makes Gardening Good Exercise?

While enjoying yourself in the garden, you are also working all the major muscle groups: legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdomen. Gardening tasks that use these muscles build strength and burn calories.

Besides the exertion involved, gardening has other pluses that make it a good form of exercise and calorie burning. There can be a great deal of stretching involved with gardening, like reaching for weeds or tall branches, bending to plant and extending a rake. Lifting bags of mulch, pushing wheelbarrows and shoveling all provide resistance training similar to weight lifting, which leads to healthier bones and joints. Yet while doing all this, there is minimal jarring and stress on the body, unlike aerobics or jogging.

Losing Weight by Gardening

Losing weight requires you to burn more calories than you consume and so the amount of weight you’ll lose gardening depends on several factors including your size and the task you are performing.

Some general examples from Iowa State University, below, show how some of the more strenuous gardening tasks can really burn calories.

  • Digging Holes – Men: 197 calories, Women: 150 calories
  • Planting – Men: 177 calories, Women: 135 calories
  • Weeding – Men: 157 calories, Women: 156 calories

The National Institute of Health lists gardening for 30 – 45 minutes in its recommended activities for moderate levels of exercise to combat obesity, along with biking 5 miles in 30 minutes and walking 2 miles in the same time.

More Health Benefits of Gardening

Research is showing that gardening for just 30 minutes daily will help:

  • Increase flexibility
  • Strengthen joints
  • Decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Lower your risk for diabetes
  • Slow osteoporosis

Getting the Most Exercise out of Gardening

It takes at least 30 minutes of exercise several days a week, to really receive any health benefits from gardening. However researchers are now saying that you can break that 30 minutes up into shorter active periods throughout the day. As long as each activity lasts at least 8 minutes and is of moderate intensity, when you total them up to 30 minutes per day, you’ll reap the same rewards as if you had been gardening for a half hour straight. So you can do a little weeding in the cool of the morning and go back out to the garden in the evening to prune and trim.

Start slowly, if you’re not used to the exertion. Lift properly, by using your legs. Vary your tasks and your movements and make use of the major muscle groups, to get the most benefit. Aches and pains aren’t necessarily a sign of a good workout. Your muscles may feel tired, but they shouldn’t hurt unless you’re using muscles you haven’t worked in a while or you’re using them wrong.

Gardening isn’t usually enough exercise to forsake your daily walk or swim, but it’s nice to know those tired muscles you feel after turning the compost are actually something good you did for your body and your health. As with any other form of exercise, check with your doctor first, if you’re not used to strenuous exercise. Make sure you incorporate a little stretching before and after gardening and take things slowly in extreme heat. We do garden for the pleasure, after all. Getting in shape and losing weight are just the icing on the cake.

Sources:

Have Wheels Will Travel

“Have wheels – will travel”.   Cycling is the third most popular recreational activity in the UK with an estimated 3.1 million people riding a bicycle each month.  In the 1980’s the Mountain Bike with its sturdy frame and wide tyres for added stability and durability was introduced, and cycling surged in popularity.   That was when, as an adult I became the proud owner of a bike, and I still love cycling today!  Over the years I have “acquired” other friends cast off bikes, and now my garage houses enough bikes to fit my large or smaller grandchildren and visitors.  We have great fun cycling and exploring the riverside area where I live.

The success of team UK cyclists in the 2012 Olympic Games had a good effect on cycling and highlighted the completive nature of the sport.  The organisers of UK Cycling Events have reported a huge uptake in mass participation events and charity rides since the Olympics.  However the majority of those who re-enter the world of cycling are more likely to do gentler family and social rides than long distance sporting events.  A major retailer reports that vintage style ladies’ bikes designed by Victoria Pendleton, not sporty bikes, are among its best sellers indicating that people are getting on bikes for non-competitive reasons.

As a form of exercise, cycling has broad appeal and most of us from toddlers to pensioners, the able-bodied or people with disabilities can all enjoy cycling.  Cycling is an opportunity to discover places unseen from a car such as woodland paths, unmade tracks, riverside tow paths, and just sometimes – a mountain!  The health benefits are enormous, and all from just pushing pedals around!

Cycling is suitable for people of all ages and abilities, including those with back problems or weight problems, since the body weight is supported during exercise.   It builds stronger leg muscles, (quadriceps and calf), back, arm, neck muscles, it also strengthens our hearts, expands our lungs and improves our circulation.   Unless you are being competitive, cycling is a low-impact type of exercise, so it’s easier on your joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities.

But it still helps you get into shape!   For example, an hour’s ride will burn up 400 – 650 calories, will tone your legs and bottom and keep you looking and feeling good. If  you ride up hills or off-road, you’ll also work your upper body, and cycling hard and fast is superb aerobic exercise  resulting in a fitter heart and more efficient lungs. The best way to build your cardiovascular fitness on your bike is to ride for at least 150 minutes every week.  To achieve this you could cycle to work a few days during the week or do a couple of shorter rides, with a longer ride at the weekend.  You’ll soon feel the benefits.

Nowadays thousands, young and old don “go faster stripes” to race off on their bikes at high speed in search of fitness and fun.  However we need to keep safe and wearing a cycling helmet is essential, to prevent head injuries if we fall off.  Don’t be tempted to buy a second-hand helmet, it may be damaged and not protect you properly. You should replace your helmet every five years.  When buying check that the helmet is:

  • Marked with the British Standard (BS EN 1078:1997)
  • Fits snugly, positioned squarely on your head
  • Sits just above your eyebrows (not tilted back or tipped forwards)
  • Fastens securely by straps (not twisted) with just enough room for two fingers between chin and strap.

If you intend to cycle at night it’s compulsory to have a white front light, a red rear light and a red rear reflector.   For your further safety you should have amber/yellow pedal reflectors front and back on each pedal.

With these safety precautions in place it’s time to go! If possible miss out cycling on busy roads with dirty vehicles belching out fumes, or if you have to take that particular route, wear a mask.  Whatever your speed a spin outdoors has the added advantage of fresh air, so no matter what the weather is like, get up and go out!  If it’s wet and windy, dress in suitable clothing, don your helmet and be off, the fresh air will clear your head and immediately life begins to look brighter.

Cycling can lift our spirits and will help us put our problems into perspective.  The freedom we feel with the wind blowing on our cheeks, gives us time to identify solutions and put our lives back on track. Cycling is one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your daily routine because it’s also a form of transport.  It saves you money and is good for the environment.  So don’t delay “on yer bike” and get those wheels turning!

 

Osteoporosis – Bone Booster Exercises

HOW MY EXERCISE PROGRAMME CAN HELP YOU

My Bone Boosters programme consists of a set of easy movements designed specifically to strengthen and preserve bone thickness.  They are exercises you can do in your everyday life, around your home or workplace or in the garden. You need no more than 20-30 minutes a day, for three days a week, though we do ask that you build up to this slowly to avoid possible injury or over-tiring.

Bone Boosters are intended especially for women of 40-plus who are approaching the menopause, but the earlier you start incorporating them into your life, the better.  There is also a special Osteo-Relief section of exercises for those who already suffer from osteoporosis.

But before you start this or any exercise programme, please check with your doctor if you suffer from heart disease, have high blood-pressure, joint problems, back problems, if you are very overweight, have any serious illness, or are convalescing.

If you already have osteoporosis, do not attempt the main Bone Boosters section and, check with your doctor before starting on the special Osteo-Relief.

It is essential that you check the support and equipment you will be using before performing any of the following exercises in your home or even out in the garden, to make sure they are strong enough to take your weight.

How much exercise should we do?

To be effective exercise must be done on a regular basis.   Some physical activity should be undertaken for an hour at least once a week, but preferably more often, up to 5 times a week.  Ideally a generally more active lifestyle must be aimed for, because all exercise and activity is good for us – but inactivity isn’t.

Why is weight bearing exercise so beneficial?

We know that it’s a natural process for women (and men) to lose some density from bone after about the age of 35.  Research over the past 10 years or so has shown that through regular, weight-bearing exercise it is possible to prevent some of the dramatic loss which often occurs in women over 50.   This is largely due to the fall in levels of the female hormone oestrogen at the time of the menopause (or earlier if there has been a premature menopause brought about by hysterectomy).  Genetic inheritance and other factors can also contribute to bone loss.

Weight-bearing exercises or movements that use the bodies own weight will help preserve and even build bone, but the effect only occurs when the weight is repeatedly exerted. Muscles that are attached to either end of the bone force it to twist and bend in response to strike action and jarring movements.  This stress-strengthening effect on bone is boosted if sufficient calcium and Vitamin D are available in the diet – more on this in our chapter on nutrition……

Simple brisk walking, skipping or running all use a hard, vibrating strike action with the weight of the upper body borne by the spine hips, legs and feet.  A push up uses whole body weight and can strengthen shoulders arms and wrists.  Studies by Dr Joan Bassey at the University of Nottingham Medical School Nottingham showed that pre-menopausal women who were encouraged to do a series of little jumps for a controlled period of time on a regular basis, significantly increased the bone density of their ankles, knees and femoral head.

Can you target specific bones?

Introducing additional weights can target specific bones still further.  For example, exercising with dumb-bells puts extra demand on the arms and wrists.  So too does carrying heavy bags of shopping (as long as you keep a straight back and don’t stoop).  Lifting household objects, like heavy cooking pots or the vacuum cleaner, has a similar Bone-Boosting effect.   However care must be taken when carrying awkward and heavy objects to avoid a falls that might cause a fracture.  Twisting off the tight lid of a jar helps wrists and forearms too.

Once you’ve followed my bone boosting exercise programme you will be able to adapt other everyday objects and activities and turn them into your own Bone Boosters.

My Bone Boosters programme targets hips, wrists, and spine particularly, these being most vulnerable to the painful, crippling and sometimes fatal fractures caused as a result of osteoporosis.  So go ahead, enjoy the sessions and make them part of your life.   And may the power they bring be with you.

BONE BOOSTERS EXERCISE PLAN

Before you begin my special Bone Boosters exercise plan it is essential to warm-up by putting your major joints through their natural range of movement.  This will help to maintain mobility, warm up major muscles and raise the pulse.  By adding some stretches to your warm up you will be ready and prepared to continue exercising without the risk of injury.  But the less fit you are, the longer your warm-up needs to be.  An average warm-up should take 5-10 minutes.

WARM-UP

So, let’s make a start.  You need to be wearing loose, comfortable clothes and sports shoes if possible.  Clear enough space and use furniture and fittings around the house, like tables, chairs, banisters and the kitchen sink, for support.  Or better still you could exercise outside in the fresh air.  But before performing any exercises in your home or garden, it is essential to check that the support is secure and strong enough to take your weight, and that the ground surface you are working on isn’t wet or slippery.  Don’t exercise until at least an hour after meals, and keep drinking water near at hand to avoid becoming dehydrated.

1.  STAND TALL

Check your posture by standing with your feet comfortably apart, your shoulders back but down and relaxed.  (Don’t poke your head forward.) Pull in your tummy muscles, tighten your bottom and tuck your tail under.  This will tilt your pelvis forward.  Your knees should be soft (relaxed).

2.  WRIST CIRCLE

To mobilise wrists sit in your chair or stand up.  Tuck your elbows into your waist or place them on a table for support and simply circle your hands, working the wrists first 8 times in one direction, then 8 times in the other direction.

3.      WINDMILL

To mobilise shoulders and release tension, place your fingertips on your shoulders.  Bring your elbows together in front of you, then take them up, and back, and draw imaginary circles with your elbows, pulling your shoulder blades apart.   8 times clockwise then 8 times anti-clockwise.

4.      HEAD ROLL

To mobilise neck and release tension, look over your right shoulder with chin parallel to floor.  Slowly drop your chin to your chest and roll it on around to look over your left shoulder.  Return your chin to your chest and roll back up to the right side.  Continue with control, 8 times. Do not roll your head backwards.

5.      ANKLE  CIRCLE

To mobilise ankles and toes, stand with your feet comfortably apart, hands on your hips or hold on to a table unit or chair back for support.  Place the toes of your right foot on the ground.  Keep them in place, heel up.  Circle your ankle 8 times clockwise, then 8 times anti-clockwise.  Repeat with your left foot.

6.      SIDE TWIST

To mobilise your upper body, stand with your feet apart, lift your arms up to shoulder level.  Bend your elbows and bring your fingertips together.  Keep your hips facing forward and twist your upper body and head around to the right side only.  Come back to face centre, then take your upper body around and look to the left.  Repeat 8 times.

7.      SIDE REACH

To mobilise the sides of your body, stand with your feet apart and knees relaxed.  With your right arm, reach up and over your head, bending your left knee.  Bring your arm down and transfer your weight on to your right leg and reach up and over with your left hand.   (As if you are climbing up a rope.)  Repeat 8 times to alternate sides.

Healthy Heart

The number of factors influence the incidence of heart disease. Ones you cannot change include your family history; your are at increased risk if there is heart disease in your family. Factors that can be reduced or eliminated include high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and being overweight and physically inactive.

Common Risk Factors

Cholesterol
The lower your cholesterol level the more you reduce your risk of heart disease. If you already have heat disease or are at a high risk of developing it, you may already be taking something natural from or prescription medication from your doctor to modify you cholesterol levels. The benefits of these are significant and their effect is enhanced by a healthy diet

High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, this adds to the workload of your heart, causing it to enlarge. As you age, your arteries harden and become less elastic, and high blood pressure speeds up this process.

Diabetes type 1 and 2
People with diabetes are at risk of heart disease, stoke and peripheral vascular disease. If you have diabetes, you should follow a healthy lifestyle and use appropriate therapy.
Diana Moran’s Healthy Heart Recipe

Walnut and Banana Sunrise Smoothie
1 orange segmented
1 banana, peeled
150ml of soya/rice or skimmed
150g (5 oz) soya yogurt or natural yogurt
25g (1 oz) walnuts
3 teaspoons of natural honey

(For extra protein in this smoothie, or if you don’t have soya, you can add some natural vanilla whey protein – a natural product.
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Pour into two glasses.

Smoothies are great way to increase your intake of soya protein. Make the recipe with soya milk and soya yogurt to give you 10 g of soya protein.

Heart health helpers
One of the most remarkable dietary discoveries in recent years has bee the role fish can play in preventing heat disease. People, who eat fish and shellfish regularly, such as the Japanese and Greenland Inuit, have fewer heart attacks than non-fish-eaters. Oily fish is the richest source of the polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are acids play an important part in blood clotting mechanisms, making the blood less sticky and reducing the risk of thrombosis. They also reduce irregular and potentially fatal arrhythmias.

The Mediterranean-style diet is high is fruit and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.
There are about 600 antioxidants and these include the ACE vitamins, (beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, vitamin C and vitamin E), minerals (selenium and zinc) and various other compounds that give fruit and vegetables their fabulous colours (flavonoids and phenols). Red wine and green tea is also known to be good sources of antioxidants.

Eat healthy – Avoid eating too much saturated fat and instead eat plenty of fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables, and maintain a healthy bodyweight.

Be more active – Half an hour every day is enough to make a difference and it is easy to build into your daily routine. Start off gently and gradually build up.

Be smoke-free – From the moment you stop smoking, your risk of a heart attach starts to fall and is halved within one year of giving up.

Reduce you alcohol intake – Binge drinking increases your risk of having a heart attack

Minimise stress– Find alternative ways you can relax and unwind, your local health food store will have relaxation CD’s, essential oil sprays and flower remedies that you can use to help with relaxation when needed.

Walking Therapy

How do we know that walking does more good than harm?

One source of evidence is that the people who walk say that walking makes them feel, and look, good. But this does not prove that walking is beneficial or, as is said when new medical treatments are evaluated, that it does more good than harm.  It might be that people who feel good about themselves and who are healthy, walk more than people who are depressed or unwell, and there is probably some truth in that

A second method is to question people with a problem such as heart disease or depression about their lifestyle before they became ill, and compare their answers with the results of interviews of another group of people chosen because they are identical to the group that is ill – for example, same gender, same social class, same job – in fact being as similar to the people with the disease as possible except for the fact that they do not have the disease. This approach produces scientific evidence but, like all scientific methods, has its flaws. For example, one study of four questionnaires used in interviewing people about their exercise habits demonstrated that very different results were obtained, depending on which questionnaire was used. The answers given by the same people ranged from 81 minutes in response to one questionnaire to 242 minutes in response to another.

Pedometers do away with the problem of both memory and questionnaires, but you cannot go backwards in time so studies of walking, and other forms of exercise, have to rely on memory as well as questionnaires, and both are unreliable

In spite of these difficulties, there is now a large amount of evidence about the benefits of walking.

A drug has indications and contra-indications.   The indications are the reason why a drug should be prescribed, the contra-indications are reasons why it should not be prescribed.   For example, bacterial infection of the tonsils is an indication for penicillin, but allergy to penicillin is a contra-indication.   There are many indications for walking, but what about the contra-indications?   Some people with chronic conditions worry about taking more exercise, but there are no chronic conditions or diseases for which walking is contra-indicated.   Walking has been shown to be beneficial for many diseases, including:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes;
  • arthritis;
  • intermittent claudication;
  • osteoporosis;
  • lung diseases;
  • cancers;
  • psychological problems

One reason why walking is helpful in so many chronic diseases is that it tackles a complication common to all chronic conditions – loss of fitness.   Disease has direct and indirect effects. The disease directly affects certain parts of the body.   In coronary heart disease, for example, the arteries to the heart itself are affected; in neurological disease it is the brain. However, many chronic conditions also have indirect psychological and physical effects, most commonly depression and loss of fitness

A vicious cycle develops. The disease causes inactivity and the inactivity itself increases joint stiffness and the loss of muscle power, making the person feel even more depressed.

The Walking Plus Programme

Walking is wonderful but it will not improve all four aspects of fitness which all begin with the letter S:

  • strength
  • suppleness
  • stamina
  • skill

Strength

The muscles of the lower limbs are obviously strengthened by walking, but it also strengthens the muscles of the lower back which can reduce the probability of back-ache.   To complement the benefits of walking to the lower limbs, it is useful to exercise:

  • the upper limbs with a set of weights; a small set of weights bought from any store or retail warehouse can help strengthen upper limbs and chest muscles.   Try press-ups; people aged 60 should be able to do ten press-ups to start with but every man should aim to do the same number of press-ups as his age;
  • the core muscles of the body, the muscles round the spine and abdomen: lie on your back and raise your legs from the floor; now criss-cross them 60 times. Now roll over on to your tummy, clasp your hands behind your head, and try to lift your head and shoulders off the carpet; do this 20 times.

Nordic walking also provides excellent exercise to the upper body.

Suppleness

No one understands what causes stiffness. You might find that your legs are stiff after your first long walk, especially if you do an hour of brisk walking, but it will soon pass. The best way of preventing stiffness is to take exercise more frequently. Neither ‘warming up’ is necessary before starting to take your Vital Steps, nor ‘warming down’ after you have finished. That is one of the many good things about walking as a form of exercise.

Walking helps maintain the suppleness and flexibility of the lower limbs, but because the act of walking rarely stretches the muscles and other soft tissues, it is not particularly good as a means of improving suppleness. For this reason, it is good to supplement your walking with other exercises to improve suppleness.

If you want to improve your health, it could be useful to join an introductory class for Yoga, Alexander Technique or Pilates, or consult a Shiatsu teacher.   Such a course will give you exercises that you can, and should, perform everyday, not just for your legs but for your shoulders, arms and spine.   This requires you to build a five minute routine into your day and, like the change needed to find time for extra walking, is just a matter of time management.   All these will undoubtedly improve your posture.

Stamina

Brisk walking can increase your stamina. When you start your Vital Steps programme, you may find it difficult to do brisk walking for more than 1,000 steps, but as you walk more frequently, your stamina will improve. It is, however, often difficult to measure your improvement. For example, you may feel less breathless, or be able to walk briskly for longer, or feel less breathless after brisk walking, but it may simply be the result of slowing down.   An article in the British Medical Journal called “How fast does the Grim Reaper walk?” came to the conclusion that the optimum walking speed to outpace the old chap is 1.36 mph! (1).

The best way to ensure that you keep walking briskly to maintain and improve your stamina is to walk against the clock. Walk 1,000 steps, and measure the time it has taken. A more practical approach is to walk briskly for a constant distance, for example, between certain bus-stops, or from your home to the bus-stop, and make that your test track. At least once a week, walk the track briskly and measure how long it has taken, preferably to the nearest second. The best equipment for increasing stamina is a flight of stairs or, better, four flights.

Death to lifts or they will be the death of you!

Skill

‘Physical activity programmes can help reduce the risk of falling, and therefore fractures, among older people’

At Least Five a Week – Evidence on the Impact of Physical Activity and its Relationship to Health, Department of Health, 2004

The effects of ageing are to reduce the body’s ability to cope with challenges, and one challenge is lack of exercise.   Similarly, even though you remembered how to ride a bicycle, your ability to regain your balance gets less good as you age unless you keep cycling.   This may not seem relevant to walking because people retain the skill of putting one foot in front of the other.   However, the skills that are lost are those that are more subtle but equally important, such as how to:

  • judge how far to lift your foot to clear the kerb or a bump; or
  • recover your balance if you do stumble, particularly if you cannot see where you are putting your feet.

The more you walk the better are these skills preserved but you should try other forms of exercise.   Dancing is particularly good, any sort, Scottish country, ballroom or ballet, and of course dancing has many social benefits.   For people who enjoy sport and television, try the amazing Wii – the technological development that allows you to play dance, box or compete in many other ways in your living room.

The main objective of this book is to help you change your lifestyle so that you walk more on most days of the week but it is strongly recommended that you complement and supplement the additional walking by taking up, or increasing

  • Pilates or Yoga or the Alexander technique for suppleness
  • Tennis or dancing for skill
  • The use of weights or an exercise band for strength

Increased strength and balance skills are essential in reducing the risk of falling (2)

References

(1) Stanaway FF et al (2011) How Fast Does the Grime Reaper Walk? Brit Med J 343,

(2)Morris M.E. (2012) Preventing Falls in Older People Brit Med J 345;14