Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

March 2, 2009

Table of Contents

  • Women and Alcohol (Cancer risk research)
  • Have a Terrific Walk (Try these invigorating warm-up moves)
  • Pain-Free Cycling (Tips for preventing knee and back aches)
  • A Recipe to Dine For (Try this main-course salad)

Women and Alcohol

A British study of more than a million women has indicated that drinking even low to moderate amounts of alcohol may increase the risk for several types of cancer by 13 percent. The research, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, involved 1,280,296 women ages 45 to 75 who visited breast screening clinics between the years 1996 and 2001. This represents one out of every four British women in that age group.

It has long been established that alcohol consumption by women is associated with greater risk for cancers of the breast, esophagus, larynx, rectum, and liver. However, what distinguishes this particular study is its finding that levels of alcohol intake that are really quite low nonetheless increase the risk. The lead researcher epidemiologist Naomi Allen of the University of Oxford has estimated that approximately five percent of cancers in American women (roughly 30,000 cases a year) result from such low levels of alcohol consumption.

In the study, having as little as one drink a day was linked to 11 additional breast cancers per 1,000 women -- and on the same terms, one additional cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx, one additional cancer of the rectum, and 0.7 additional instances each of esophageal, laryngeal, and liver cancers.

A problematic development stemming from this research is its presumable conflict with previous findings that both men and women enjoy a cardiovascular benefit from having a single drink each day. Do the increased cancer risks for women outweigh their potential cardiovascular gains? Dr. Allen believes it is too early to reach firm conclusions. To address that question, she is presently carrying out a study of potential cardiovascular benefits in the same group of U.K. women.

Have a Terrific Walk

Whether it's neighborhood walking, mall walking, or fitness track walking, taking a brisk stroll is one of the most popular forms of physical activity for older adults. Although many people do not realize that they need to warm up for energetic walking, the American Senior Fitness Association has always advocated performing a thorough warm-up. There are several reasons for this, just one of which is to encourage adequate step-lift height, which may help to prevent tripping or stumbling. After in-place limbering movements have been completed, additional warm-ups can be undertaken during the beginning of a walk. Following are some effective maneuvers from Team Prevention Walking Coach Lee Scott, as related by Prevention magazine writer Paige Nestel:

  • Walk at an easy pace for the first minute.
  • For the next half-minute, perform cross-over walking. That is, envision yourself walking along a straight line. With each step, bring your foot across the body, setting it down on the opposite side of your imaginary line.
  • For the next half-minute, as you walk, roll your shoulders forward a few times, then backward a few times. Follow this by circling your whole arms (both at the same time) forward and then backward.
  • For the next half-minute, perform arc walking. Swing you right leg forward and out toward the right to land. Next bring your left foot toward the right, then out toward the left to land. Continue alternating.
  • For the next half-minute, perform exaggerated heel-to-toe walking. With each step, set down the heel while keeping your toes lifted, then roll up onto your toes, thereby lifting your heel.

  • Pain-Free Cycling

    Another active pastime that is very popular among mature adults is bicycling. However, biking-related knee and back pain can curtail one's participation in that enjoyable activity. Dr. Paul Donohue, medical writer for the News-Journal of Daytona Beach, Florida, has some practical solutions for cyclists:

  • Knee pain can arise from overuse, which might involve cycling for too long, cycling too far, or failing to provide sufficient rest periods for the knees between cycling events. When knee discomfort has been a factor, begin (or resume) cycling conservatively: no more than 10 minutes of cycling at first on no more than three days per week. Every week add a few more minutes to the cycling sessions, and very gradually increase your cycling days as well tolerated.
  • A few simple adjustments to your bicycle may help to eliminate knee and back pain. When your foot is at its lowest point, the knee of that leg should be slightly bent. If the seat is too low, the knee will bend too much, causing undue compression that brings pain experienced in the front of the knee. Conversely, if the seat is too high, the knee will have no bend, leading to pain in the back of the knee. Dr. Donohue suggests estimating the correct height of the seat by multiplying one's inseam measurement by 1.09.
  • Back pain often results from leaning too low and too far forward. To alleviate the discomfort, sit more upright. Adjust your handlebars so that they are at least six inches higher than your seat.

  • A Recipe to Dine For

    From the healthy-eating magazine deliciousliving comes a superb (and easy to prepare) main-dish winter salad recipe: Pear, Chicken, and Feta Salad. The magazine article's author Karin Lazarus notes that making this dish is a great way to use leftover chicken. An alternative time-saver is purchasing a precooked rotisserie chicken. The salad ingredients she lists are:

  • 6 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 medium ripe pear, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked chopped or shredded chicken breast meat
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • The preparation steps are as follows:

  • Combine the salad greens, pear, chicken, feta cheese, cranberries, and pecans in a large salad bowl.
  • In a smaller bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, and orange peel; then add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drizzle about 4 tablespoons of the dressing over the salad; then gently toss.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Lazarus advises that this salad serves six and goes very well with warmed whole-wheat pita bread. For more healthy dining ideas from this publication, click on

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