Our health experts answer your questions. This week: getting fit in the home and winter ailments.Q: My New Year’s resolution is to improve my general fitness. What is the best piece of home gym equipment I could buy in the January sales? I don’t have any injuries.
G Marshall, Wales
A: TONY GALLAGHER writes:
It depends on what your aims and preferences are when it comes to exercising. My own choice of equipment for overall fitness would be the Concept2 indoor rowing machine. Although it primarily provides a cardiovascular workout, it also works the arms, legs, back, shoulders and abdominals all at once.
You can adjust the resistance and focus on the drive part of the stroke, emphasising the legs or arms only if you prefer. Many schools in the UK use these machines as they are suitable for a wide age range, and different levels of fitness. They also have an interactive feature that may interest you if you are a social type, or have a competitive nature, which allows you to connect via your PC to rowers worldwide and race against them.
These machines are robust and rarely require any maintenance, and they also have a great resale value if you wished to upgrade or adjust your equipment at a later date.
For the relatively small amount of space it takes up, it offers a comprehensive workout that can be finished off quickly with exercises that do not require equipment. For more information, including stockist details and tips on motivation, training and weight loss, visit concept2.co.uk .
Q: My three year-old suffers from a near-constant runny nose and rattling cough during the winter months. Should I be concerned?
A: DAN RUTHERFORD writes:
Young children are serial collectors of virus infections of the upper airways and when these occur in close succession, it can seem as though the coughing will never end. However, a cough may be the only symptom of asthma in children, and this diagnosis should be particularly considered if the cough is worse during the night. Persistent clear mucus discharge from the nose can be from allergic irritation of the nasal lining (rhinitis), which often coexists with asthma. In winter we tend to shut the windows and crank up the heating, which increases the amount of house dust mites in the air – a very common trigger for both conditions.
I suggest getting your GP to check your daughter over. It’s not unusual to find that a child has a perfectly clear chest even if they do have asthma, and in that case a trial of treatment can be the only practical way to find out. Rhinitis is harder to get rid of, but look out for any fever or the nasal discharge turning from clear to coloured, which may indicate infection.
Q: I’ve been trying to resist all the chocolates that are about at this time of year – without much luck. Are any types less unhealthy than others?
A: SARA STANNER writes:
The good news is, studies have shown that people who eat moderate amounts of chocolate have a lower rate of heart disease and stroke than those who do not. Although many of these studies have not differentiated between types of chocolate, these benefits are commonly attributed to the polyphenols (flavonoids) in cocoa which have antioxidant properties.
Flavonoids occur in higher concentrations in dark chocolate, which has a higher percentage of cocoa solids. Trials have therefore typically tested the health effects of dark chocolate and have shown it to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Although the ingredients and taste are different, the overall fat and sugar composition of milk and dark chocolate is actually quite similar, both containing about 30g fat and 60g of sugar per 100g. Ultimately, the fat and sugar content of gourmet chocolate is similar to standard chocolate, but having more intense flavours may make you enjoy it more slowly and eat less in one sitting. Beware that fondant centres, caramel and toffee are worse for your teeth.
My advice would be to opt for dark chocolate, but don’t see it as a “superfood” – it provides just as many calories as milk or white chocolate.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.