Our panel of experts answers your questions on everything from walking your way to fitness to cutting down the calories on Christmas Day
much would I need towalk a week to achieve a basic level of fitness?
TONY GALLAGHER WRITES: French study looked at more than 3,000 men and women aged over 65 and followed them for an average of five years. It was found that participants with faster walking speeds had about a threefold decreased risk of cardiovascular mortality compared with participants who walked slower. This association, according to the NHS, reinforces the message that physical activity and walking have major lifetime benefits. If you can manage four to five times a week you will derive good benefits. Warm up by starting at a leisurely pace and then increase the speed. Stretch out your leg muscles afterwards and before your next walk. Aim for 30 minutes minimum at a brisk pace. You should be looking to be a bit out of breath and sweaty. To help lose weight consider between 45 to 60 minutes. If your current level of fitness stops you walking for 30 consecutive minutes you can start by breaking it down into 10-minute intervals. Add variety by trying the following: include hills in your route or take in new routes completely; try wearing a pedometer as it is a way of measuring your progress; alternate walking speeds from slow to fast to slow; consider using small hand weights for an extra challenge. Don’t forget to wear a decent pair of comfortable shoes with appropriate heel and arch supports. Finally, you can add a social element by joining a local walking group.
elderly neighbour had a bad fall, breaking her hip. It has made me concerned about the risks for my own mother, who is 65. Is there anything that can be done to reduce the risk?
DR DAN RUTHERFORD WRITES: The basic checkpoints are to look for any problems with gait, balance, mobility and muscle power (this should include a review of any medication that might contribute to falls), bone strength (osteoporosis risk),
Aeyesight and assessment of home hazards. People who have had a fall are more likely to have another and the best results come from multidisciplinary assessment and appropriate treatment plans. Your mother’s GP can advise on some of these factors but occupational therapists (OTs) are able to give good advice on making the home as safe as possible. Many areas run falls prevention services – check with the OT but also with charities such as Age UK (www.ageuk.org).
you recommend some ways to make the traditional Christmas lunch a bit healthier?
SARA STANNER WRITES: is about having fun and enjoying time with family and friends, but on average we consume around 7,000 calories on Christmas Day alone. Overindulging can cause weight gain as well as digestive problems. There are easy ways to reduce the calories, without losing any of the enjoyment. Eating a healthy breakfast will stop you from reaching for the chocolates during the morning. Start the meal with a healthy starter such as a vegetable soup, as this will help fill you up without lots of calories. Turkey is low in fat if you remove the skin before eating (this will save around 50 kcals per portion). Before cooking, prick the skin to allow the fat to run out and use a metal rack or trivet when you are roasting it to allow the fat to drain off. Steaming or microwaving vegetables will help them retain their nutrient content. Flavour them with