Q. Are there any strength exercises helpful for easing terrible leg cramp? I walk two or three times a week, play table tennis and eat healthily, yet my legs tire, ache and cramp easily, mostly at night. Doctors don’t have the answer. I am 69.
A. Leg cramps can occur for a number of possible reasons and it is often difficult to pin down the exact cause.
Some people get them from under-use of muscles which can cause poor circulation, while others over-work muscles with excessive exercise, making it hard for them to recover.
Leg cramps can occur for a number of possible reasons and it is often difficult to pin down the exact cause
Dehydration is another culprit, as is a lack of essential nutrients such as magnesium in the diet.
If your circulation is good and you are well hydrated and eating a balanced diet rich in leafy green vegetables, your chances of severe leg cramps decrease.
We should be physically active on a daily basis, in order to stimulate the blood supply to all of the muscles in the body. A lack of movement halts blood supply which may trigger cramps, so do some moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week.
This can be anything from walking, to a long cycle ride, or regular gym trips involving running on a treadmill and increasing speed at intervals.
Stretching for about ten minutes every day is also key. This is especially important after running or cycling as it helps regulate blood flow which aids the muscles’ recovery from intense exercise.
If your circulation is good and you are well hydrated and eating a balanced diet rich in leafy green vegetables, your chances of severe leg cramps decrease
Q. I am in my 50s and have never done exercise due to a number of factors including depression, losing my job and death in the family. I don’t need to lose weight, but I am concerned about breaking something as I lack muscle and strength in my hands and arms. What can I do to start slowly if I can’t afford a personal trainer?
A. Life often gets in the way of exercise. Illnesses and injuries can disturb our physical ability, and bereavements, work issues and personal problems can rob us of the desire to get off the sofa. It’s a great shame, as the chances are that moving your body will provide huge relief from both emotional and physical ailments.
Working with a trainer is in no way essential. When creating your own exercise routine, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed. The easiest thing most people can do is to get out and walk. Ideally, find some hills somewhere and spend 30 to 60 minutes walking briskly across mixed terrain. This provides a great way to build strength in the muscles, open the lungs, burn some energy and get the heart pumping.
Start with three sessions of this each week. For at least 30 minutes of these sessions, you should be at a level where you are getting hot, sweaty and out of breath. This is what will give you the biggest benefits in terms of mood, as well as physically.
Whether your goal is to run, or to cycle or to swim, it’s best to start with walking as we know it’s easy to build up your fitness level this way without any great risk.
You can move on to the following exercises, three times a week.
Squats for the thighs and buttocks, press-ups for the chest and arms and half-planks (when the legs remain on the floor during the plank) for core muscles.
Aim to do 20 to 30 seconds for each exercise, and repeat the whole routine three or four times. Do this after your walk as the muscles will be nicely warmed up. It’s minimal effort, and you’ll feel more energised within just a week, giving you the inspiration and confidence to take it up a notch later.