Rx For Readers: Is walking backwards good for you?

Readers get answers to their health questions.

Woman lacing shoes (illustrative photo) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Woman lacing shoes (illustrative photo)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
I heard recently that years ago, a fitness expert named Prof. Kedar recommended that people walk backwards to exercise muscles that one doesn’t use when walking normally. Is there any science behind this and any real benefit?
- M.L., Jerusalem
Prof. Naama Constantini, director of the sports medicine center at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and chairman of the Health Ministry’s National Council for Women’s Health, replies:
Walking backwards in fact does exercise different muscles than those used when walking normally. This is an advantage to occasionally walking backwards, but you have to be very careful doing it so you don’t fall off a cliff or otherwise get into trouble. It is also very difficult to walk quickly and for longer distances when going backwards.
I was told by a salesperson that non-inverter air conditioners have compressors that stop and start. Inverters vary the speed of the compressor, and as a result, they do not cause nasal congestion and inflamed nostrils. I was also told that inverter units have hepa filters and ionization that will help reduce nasal congestion and are beneficial to those with respiratory problems of any sort.
As we have sensitive respiratory systems in our family, I would like to know before buying an air conditioner whether or not inverters are better than non-inverters for people with allergies to dust or who have asthma or respiratory problems. Is ionization, in fact, good for you? I read that it is not.
Is an inverter air conditioner/heating unit better for certain people than a non-inverter? Is there a difference between having separate units in different rooms of one’s home and a central air conditioning system? Or should one buy a non-inverter and use an air purifier without ionization? (I have no idea if one can purchase an air purifier in Israel that does not have an ionizer.)
- S.A., Beit Shemesh
Prof. Gabriel Izbicki, director of the pulmonary institute at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, comments:
Central air conditioners create condensation on the cooling coils and in drain pans that can grow microorganisms and mold, according to the August 2004 issue of The International Journal of Epidemiology. These are spread throughout the home by the central air conditioning ventilation system. People who suffer from asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory illnesses can get lung/airway infections, shortness of breath, wheezing or other severe reactions, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also noted that mold from central air conditioners can affect healthy individuals, causing wheezing, coughing and upper respiratory-tract symptoms.
An inverter in an air conditioner is used to control the speed of the compressor motor to allow continuously regulated temperature. Traditional air conditioners regulate temperature by using a compressor that is periodically either working at maximum capacity or switched off entirely. Inverter- equipped air conditioners have a variable-frequency drive that incorporates an adjustable electrical inverter to control the speed of the motor and thus the compressor and cooling output.
Reverse-cycle air conditioning not only cools or warms your home but can also purify the air inside it. A high-quality air conditioner would normally have a built-in air-purifying filter that traps fine airborne particles (pollutants). Some air conditioners have air-purifying filters that trap microscopic particles, and therefore some of them are even recommended by national asthma or respiratory societies, but you have to check specific models.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich says:
Physiotherapist Michelle Gordon of Jerusalem looked at the TNS illustration of a question in the previous column about whether walking downstairs is harmful. She commented that it showed a bicycle rider sitting on a bicycle seat that was set far too low.
“As a physiotherapist and an avid cyclist, I would like your readers to know that proper bicycle seat height is critically important to the health of your knees and the transfer of power from your muscles to the pedals.
“To achieve optimum adjustment, when the pedals are in the 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock positions, the bottom leg should be almost fully extended (slightly bent) when the heel is placed on the lower pedal. For those of us cycling in hilly Jerusalem – both adults and children alike – attention to this detail makes a real difference so you won’t harm your knees. And don’t forget your helmet!”
■ Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 9100002, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to jsiegel@jpost.com, giving your initials, age and place of residence.