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Rosemary Conley CBE

This week’s Newsletter is focussing on the importance of maintaining strong legs - something that is particularly important as we age, but it is also important if we find ourselves in need of surgery on our hips, knees or on our feet.

I witnessed first-hand the fast decline of leg strength when my lovely Mother-in-Law Jeanne suddenly found she couldn’t walk up the stairs to her room on her own – something she had done easily for several years since she moved in with us.

Jeanne had always been fit and was fiercely independent and we loved having her with us, but now she was 90 and she declared that the stairs had become too much for her.

I had been Jeanne’s semi-carer since she moved in and I was always happy to help her as she managed to get herself in and out of the bath with relative ease. But now there was a problem. Jeanne suddenly found that she couldn’t lift herself up and out of the bath and found herself ‘trapped’. It became clear that she had lost her leg strength that had enabled her to lift herself up. The only solution was for me to stand in the bath behind her and physically lift her up and to help manoeuvre her onto the edge of the bath to safety. Jeanne was in tears.

A while later, the penny dropped. Of course, Jeanne’s muscles in her thighs (her ‘quads’) and in her bottom (her ‘glutes’) had begun to waste away since she stopped walking up and down the stairs! They had lost their strength in just 10 days!

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘use it or lose it’, well, that’s what had happened to Jeanne. She had lost her strength in what Mary Morris calls our ‘Big Engines’ (our quads and glutes).

This week in Mary’s Fitness Challenge she is encouraging you to work on your leg strength and I strongly recommend you pass the exercises on to your older relatives if they are finding walking or climbing stairs challenging.

Here are some of our videos to encourage your muscles to stay strong as well as some videos to help prepare you, or your loved ones, for orthopaedic surgery:

Standing Weights WorkoutFloor Weights WorkoutLeg Strengthener and Bottom TonerThe 28-Day Immunity Plan – Week 1Preparing for Surgery – Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Maneesh BhatiaPreparing for Surgery – Physiotherapist Judith Pitt-BrookePreparing for Knee SurgeryPreparing for Hip SurgeryPreparing for Foot Surgery.

Recipe of the Week

Baked Salmon with Sweet Ginger

Sweet and sour flavours enhance this quick and easy fish dish.

Serves 4
Per serving: 173 kcal/10g fat
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
2 tbsps lemon juice
4 tsps light muscovado sugar
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
4 tsps chopped fresh dill
4 tsps light soy sauce
4 salmon steaks
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, sugar, ginger, dill and soy sauce to form a glaze, and season with black pepper.
  3. Place 1 salmon steak in the bowl and toss in the glaze. Repeat with the remaining 3 steaks. Transfer the salmon to an ovenproof dish and pour the marinade over.
  4. Bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes until just cooked. Serve with salad or seasonal vegetables.
The fish can also be cooked under a hot grill for 6–8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pieces. Check the fish is cooked by carefully pulling the flesh apart, using 2 knives. The flesh inside should be light pink in colour and not wet in appearance. When cooked, the flesh will flake away from the skin easily.
For more recipes click here to visit the website

Fun, Facts & Fitness from Mary Morris MSc.

I once met a lady, a fit lady I have to say, who proudly told me her only way of keeping fit was to go swimming three times a week.  Now that is highly commendable of course and there is no doubt it was doing wonders for her heart, lungs and joints, as well as being a great calorie burner keeping her looking lovely and slim.  But the teacher in me felt compelled to point out that she also needed to 'load' her legs on ‘terra firma’ with activities such as both walking and strength training. 

It is so important for us to vary our activities because we have mainly two types of muscle fibres in our body – one that helps to keep us going for longer (endurance fibres) and another type that gives us power (fast fibres) that help to get us out of a chair, for example.  Both need regular ‘training’ and you will find plenty of workouts on our website that will do just that. The exercise section of The 28-Day Immunity Plan includes specific Strength programmes and also recommends a 30-minute walk every day.

The Benefits to the legs of Regular Walking:

  • Walking is the key activity for older bodies.  We are designed to walk and the more often we do it, the further we can go.
  • Walking uses up calories so is a great way to control our body weight.  Speed up a bit and we burn even more energy (calories)!
  • Walking not only keeps our whole circulatory system of the heart and lungs in great condition, but it also strengthens our bones in the lower body.  This reduces the risk of breaking a hip should we have a fall in later years.
  • A good long walk in the great outdoors also has the capability of producing those 'feel good' hormones (endorphins) that lift our spirits, reducing stress and depression.

The Benefits to the legs of Strength Training:

  • Doing repetitive strength exercise for the legs is vital for reducing muscle wasting which is a natural consequence of getting older, as Rosemary explained in the case of her Mother-in-Law.  Strength exercises will help retain those 'fast' muscle fibres.  If we don’t strengthen our legs as we age, the loss can be as much as 40% by the age of 80!  Leg strength exercises slows this loss down considerably so it worth the effort.
  • Strength exercises particularly target the important group of four muscles in the front of the thigh (quadriceps) and the largest single muscle in the body at the back of the hip (gluteus maximus). If you regularly use the exercises in the Strength and Toning section of the website and get squatting, you will significantly strengthen your legs!
  • Having the power in your legs resulting from specific strength exercises for the legs will enable you to be stronger and more mobile generally, such as being able to make sudden moves when needed, and to get you up and down from the floor for example.

 I have often referred to the legs as our 'Big Engines' and it is such a good description for the most important muscles in our body.  If you ever find yourself confined to a bed, even for just a couple of days, you will realise how easy it is to lose strength and stamina from the entire body, leaving you feeling extremely weak.  That's why as long as we can walk, we must keep doing it. No excuses! Because literally, the quality of our life depends upon it!

This Week's Fitness Challenge

  1. Start your week with the 'Sit to Stand’ test which is the first section of the DIY Fitness Test on the website, and record your result.
  2. Do the Standing Weights Workout 3 times this week.
  3. Take the trouble to time all your daily walks this week and try to do the same distance but in less time as the week progresses.  A clear indication that you are spending more energy!
  4. Do the Stretch Programme 3 times this week preferably following on from your strength training.
  5. Finish your week with a re-test of the 'Sit to Stand’ test and see if you have improved over the week.
Did you know…  

Have you ever heard anyone say they have ‘heavy bones’? In fact, bones only make up about 15% of our total body weight. The actual weight of our skeleton depends on how much our entire body weighs. For example, the bones of a person weighing 100 pounds would only weigh about 15 pounds.

And Finally...

Now that you have learned all about the importance of our ‘big engine’ muscles, why not develop the habit of doing squats as you wait for the kettle to boil, chat on the phone, or when the adverts are on TV? Doing 10 squats several times a day really isn’t difficult but it is extremely valuable in maintaining leg strength.

Have fun!

With love and best wishes,

Rosemary Conley CBE DL


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