Your health questions answered

How much exercise should I do? Why can't I have an ovarian scan?
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Indy Lifestyle Online

CYCLING CONUNDRUM

Q. I am trying to set up a weekly exercise regime, and I want to know how to calculate a "period of exercise". If I commute to and from work by bicycle (45 minutes each way), does this count as one or two periods of exercise a day? I plan to cycle to and from work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Is that six periods of exercise or just three?

A. People who exercise regularly are healthier than people who do not. Some of the studies recommend exercising 30 minutes a day, three times a week. Other research says you must exercise 25 minutes a day, five days a week. The health benefits are impressive. Reduced rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast cancer, bowel cancer, osteoporosis, depression. It makes me wonder why the NHS bothers with expensive drugs. The message is clear - regular exercise, no matter what kind or how much - is better than no exercise. You don't have to be pedantic about how many "periods" of exercise you are getting. Six cycle journeys are six cycle journeys, and not three 90-minute cycle journeys interrupted by work. If you cycle three days a week, you will get more exercise than if you only cycle one day a week. Five days a week, with some exercise at the weekend, is even better. Don't spend too much mental energy counting your periods of exercise. Just do it.

CANCER WORRY

Q. I am worried about getting cancer of the ovary, which killed a good friend. I have asked several doctors if I can arrange regular scans to check for ovarian cancer, but I'm told this is not available on the NHS. I can't understand why the NHS doesn't think is it worth screening for ovarian cancer.

A. The NHS doesn't offer regular ultrasound scans to pick up cancer of the ovary because the scans are not an effective method of screening. Scans are often unable to see the ovaries well enough to be sure that they look normal. The latest research shows that there may be a regular blood test that will pick up early cancer of the ovary much more effectively than a scan. If this turns out to be true, the NHS will have to think about introducing regular blood tests, rather than ultrasound scans. Luckily, cancer of the ovary is quite unusual. Only about 1 in 100 women ever get it.

Please send your questions and suggestions to A Question of Health, 'The Independent', Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax 020-7005 2182 or e-mail to health@independent.co.uk. Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally

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