Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Exercise Strengthens Bones

It's never too late to strengthen bones with exercise. Every woman, and most men, will suffer from osteoporosis if they live long enough. Hip bones broken by osteoporosis do not heal, and must be replaced immediately. A study from Australia shows that regular exercise helps to keep bones strong and exercising into later life protects bones of older people even more (Journal Osteoporosis International, August 2006). An earlier study from Sweden showed that men who were highly competitive soccer players in their youth and then gave up active sports did not have bigger and stronger bones and did not have fewer fractures than people who never exercised at all. On the other hand, people who did not exercise in their youth, but started and continued their exercise programs into later life did have larger and stronger bones.

A person has the strongest bones at ages 20 to 30. After that people lose bone continuously for the rest of their lives. Any activity helps keep bones strong, but exercises that put extra pressure on specific bones offer greater benefit. That is why weightlifting is a much better exercise for strengthening bones than swimming. The bones in the arm that hold the racquet in tennis players are much stronger than the other arm. Pick any sport that keeps you active and try to do it daily for the rest of your life. Take off only when you are tired or sick or your muscles are sore. More at: lifting weights makes bones stronger

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Support Stockings Don't Help Exercisers

Elastic compression stockings have no effect whatever on exercise, according to a recent study from France (European Journal of Applied Physiology, July 2006). They neither increase nor decrease endurance, strength, speed, recovery, or blood flow to the limbs. The study did not test the increased warmth generated by compressive stockings, but many people with arthritis have difficulty exercising in the cold and feel better from the warmth generated by a snug wrapping. In hot weather, the support hose can act as a barrier to prevent heat loss, which may make you tire earlier.

Many people develop swollen feet and ankles when they stand or sit, which goes away when they lie down. People with this gravity-dependant swelling of their feet and legs often find that support stockings help to prevent fluid from collecting in their legs. While you exercise, the force of your contracting muscles keeps blood from pooling. When your leg muscles relax, the veins near them fill up with blood. When your leg muscles contract, they squeeze the veins near them and pump blood up toward your heart. The pumping action of your leg muscles exerts a strong force to empty your veins, so you will not need support hose during exercise. So you may benefit from wearing support hose when you stand around, but it is unlikely that you will need them when you exercise.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Fit Women Live Longer

The strongest, best-coordinated, fastest older women with the most endurance live the longest. French women over the age of 75 were tested to see how fast they could walk (speed), how many chair stands they could do (endurance), how well they could balance themselves (coordination), and the pressure of their handgrip (strength). Women at the low end of scores for the total of the four tests and for each test were at increased risk for dying in the next four years (European Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 21, 2006).

Strength, speed, endurance and coordination are measures of fitness, determined by how active you are and how much exercise you get. What you do now is more important than what you did in your younger years. More than fifty years ago, a study showed that college football players die younger than their non-athletic classmates. Data acquired many years later showed that some hormones, such as insulin-like growth factor-1, help muscles and bones to grow and make a person a better athlete. However, these same hormones cause fat cells to fill with fat which increases a person’s chances of suffering diabetes and heart attacks. Obesity is a major risk factor for premature death. If athletes continue to exercise and do not become overweight in their later years, they probably are not at increased risk for premature death.

Any type of exercise can help to control your weight and protect your health. However, out-of-shape people are the ones at highest risk for sudden death during exercise. If you are out of shape, ask your doctor to give you a nuclear stress test to determine your susceptibility to heart damage during exercise. If you pass the test, you should start a supervised exercise program today.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Constipation: Why some foods help

Why do some foods such as prunes help to prevent constipation? At last, scientists at the Medical College of Georgia have explained why high-fiber foods keep you regular (PloS Biology, September 2006). Rough and bulky foods brush against the inner linings of your intestinal tract and break the membranes that surround each cell. Immediately, calcium in the outside fluid moves inside the cell to signal mucous-filled compartments inside the cell to come together and form a patch to heal the breaks in the surface membranes. The cells release mucous to keep bulky stool moving along your intestinal tract. Cells lining your intestinal tract live only around 48 hours anyway, so this damage is not harmful as long as you don’t also take a lot of aspirin or alcohol which cause even more damage. If you suffer from irregularity, eat more whole grains and vegetables and drink plenty of fluids. More on constipation

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Memory Loss can be Caused by Excess Weight

Full fat cells produce proteins called cytokines that turn on your immunity to cause inflammation that damages tissue throughout your body, including your brain. Researchers at Toulouse University Hospital in France tested people first in 1996 and again five years later. During that period, overweight people lost far more of their ability to recall words than their thinner counterparts. (Neurology, October 2006).

Your immunity is supposed to protect you from infections. When a germ gets into your body, your immunity produces white blood cells and proteins called antibodies that attach to and kill germs. As soon as the germ is gone, your immunity is supposed to stop making antibodies and white blood cells. In some people the immunity remains active and attacks a person’s own body to cause heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, and even diabetes. This recent study shows that it may even attack your nerves and brain. Being overweight can cost you IQ points, and the most effective way to prevent obesity is to exercise regularly. Subscribe

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Donating Blood: Effects on Athletes and Exercisers

A healthy athlete should be able to recover completely from donating blood in eight weeks, but he may lose some of his ability to train for a few days. Following a donation of one pint, blood volume is reduced by about ten percent and returns to normal in 48 hours. For two days after donating, you should drink lots of fluids and probably exercise at a reduced intensity or not at all. Donating blood markedly reduces competitive performance for three to four weeks as it takes that long for blood hemoglobin levels to return to normal.

You should not donate blood more often than every eight weeks because it takes that long to replace lost nutrients. If you donate blood frequently, you need to make sure to replace the B vitamins and possibly the iron that you lose with the blood. You can meet your needs for iron by eating meat, fish or chicken or by taking iron supplements; and you can meet your needs for the B vitamins with whole grains and diary products. Donating blood at least four times a year may help to prevent heart attacks by lowering blood cholesterol levels significantly and reducing iron levels. Iron in the bloodstream converts LDL cholesterol to oxidized LDL which forms plaques in arteries.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Foods to Build Muscle

If you want to become very strong, you should lift heavy weights, eat carbohydrates before you lift and eat plenty of protein afterwards. Normal amounts of insulin help muscles grow, and eating carbohydrates causes your blood sugar to rise, which, in turn, causes your pancreas to release insulin. Taking in large amounts of protein after a workout helps muscles to recover faster from hard exercise, so you can do more hard work and grow larger and stronger muscles (Journal of Physiology, Volume 573, 2006).

To increase muscle strength, the weights you lift must be heavy enough to cause muscle burning while you lift and your muscles to feel sore on the next day. The soreness is caused by damage to the muscle fibers themselves. Most athletes quickly learn to lift lighter weights on as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away, and then lift very heavy weights again. The faster muscles heal from hard workouts, the more quickly you can go back to lifting heavy weights and the stronger you will become.

Insulin brings protein building blocks, called amino acids, into muscles to increase the rate of healing. Eating carbohydrates raises blood insulin levels. Protein is the building blocks for all tissues, particularly muscle. So the faster and more protein you can bring into muscle fibers, the more quickly they heal and the faster you can go back to your heavy lifting program. More

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Salt Sensitivity Lowered with Exercise

Excessive intake of salt causes high blood pressure in some, but not all, people. High blood pressure increases risk for heart attacks, strokes, and kidney damage. Why do some people develop high blood pressure when they take in a lot of salt, while others do not? A recent study from the University of Minnesota shows that middle-aged people who start an exercise program lose their tendency to develop high blood pressure when they take in extra salt (Journal of Human Hypertension, May 2006).

All people who exercise frequently and hard need to take in extra salt. During World War II, Dr. James Gamble of Harvard Medical School showed that the only mineral that exercisers need in large quantities is salt. If heavy exercisers don’t take in enough salt, they will eventually run low on salt and suffer fatigue, muscle aches and cramps, and be at increased risk for injuring themselves.

The Minnesota study measured blood pressure in people when they followed a high-salt diet and again when they went on a low-salt diet. The salt-sensitive people who developed high blood pressure on a high-salt diet were started on an exercise program. After six months, many of these people did not develop high blood pressure when they again ate a high-salt diet. This shows that regular exercise can control high blood pressure caused by a high-salt diet. Previous studies show that it is very bad advice to tell most exercisers to restrict their intake of salt. This new study shows that many people who develop high blood pressure from a high salt diet when they are sedentary, will not develop high blood pressure on the same diet when they exercise.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Prolonging Life: Why exercise or calorie restriction may be the key

Many studies have shown that animals on calorie restricted diets live longer, have less diabetes, heart attacks and cancers and appear younger. In the latest work at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, monkeys eating only 30 percent of their normal caloric intake live much longer and appear much younger than those eating their full diets (American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, August 2006).

Nobody really knows how calorie restriction with adequate nutrients prolongs life and prevents disease, or whether the animal studies can be applied to humans. The leading theory for calorie restriction with adequate nutrition is that it teaches your mitochondria to burn food to produce much lower amounts of oxidants. Mitochondria are the furnaces in cells that turn food into energy. Converting food to energy produces free electrons that form reactive chemicals called oxidants that can bind to and damage DNA and shorten life. Exercise also reduces the amount of oxidants and so should prolong life. Another theory is that excess calories cause fat cells to fill up with fat. Full fat cells produce cytokines that turn on your immunity to cause inflammation that damages all the cells in your body, which would shorten life and cause disease. Anything that prevents excess fat storage should reduce inflammation and thus prolong life. Exercise burns calories, and food restriction lowers calorie intake in humans as well as animals.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Syndrome X: Treat with Lifestyle Change

Syndrome X describes people who have low blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol and high blood levels of triglycerides, which puts them at high risk for heart attacks. HDL cholesterol is called the good cholesterol because it carries cholesterol and triglycerides from your blood to your liver before they can form plaques in arteries. Triglycerides are manufactured by your liver from extra food that you take in, primarily from refined carbohydrates which cause a high rise in blood sugar. Excessive amounts of triglycerides cause a condition called fatty liver that interferes with liver function.

Your liver is supposed to remove insulin from your bloodstream after the insulin has done its job of driving sugar from the bloodstream into cells. A fatty liver does not remove insulin as well as it should, so large amounts of insulin accumulate in the bloodstream. Excess insulin affects your brain to make you hungry all the time, causes your liver to manufacture even more fat, causes you to deposit more fat in your belly, and constricts arteries.

People with high blood levels of triglycerides and low levels of the good HDL cholesterol are at high risk for obesity, diabetes and heart attacks. The tendency to develop Syndrome X is genetic but it will not appear if you burn more calories than you take in. If you have this syndrome, you should avoid all refined carbohydrates: foods made with flour, white rice, milled corn, and any type of added sugar. Eat plenty of vegetables and WHOLE grains, and (of course) get plenty of vigorous exercise.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sagging breasts not caused by exercise

Women can wear bras when they exercise if they want to, but there is no medical evidence that exercising braless will harm them or cause breasts to sag. A breast is made up of skin on the outside, fat underneath and muscles under that. Breasts are held in place by skin and small ligaments that go from the skin to muscles underneath the breasts. The intermittent stretching that occurs during exercise does not stretch out the skin or ligaments. A breast is composed mostly of fat, so when a woman starts to exercise, she loses fat from her breast as well as the rest of her body and they become smaller and may appear to sag. Sagging is determined to some degree by heredity. All women develop some sagging as they age and those with the largest breasts are the ones who are most likely to develop sagging.

Many women with small breasts prefer not to wear bras when they exercise. However, women with large breasts may need them to feel comfortable. If a woman wants to wear a bra, she should choose one that is loose enough to let her breathe comfortably, and tight enough to keep the breasts from bouncing and the bra from riding up or twisting during exercise. The bra should not have bones or wires that dig into the body, or rough seams or hooks that rub against the skin.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sea salt or regular table salt?

Should you use sea salt instead of ordinary table salt? While iodized table salt is a good source of iodine, sea salt often is not. If you don't use table salt or eat ocean fish or kelp, get a blood test for iodine. If your iodine level is low, you need to eat more seafood or iodized salt, or take iodine pills.

You need to eat foods that contain iodine for your body to be able to make thyroid hormone. The best sources are iodized salt and seafood. Plants can be a good source, but only if they are grown on iodine-rich soil. A study in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism (September-October 2003) showed that vegetarians are at increased risk for iodine deficiency that causes low thyroid function. In this study, 25 percent of vegetarians and 80 percent of vegans had low blood levels of iodine, compared to only nine percent of people who eat both meat and vegetables.
More on thyroid function

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cross-training for maximum fitness

Every time you exercise vigorously your muscles are injured, and the harder you exercise, the longer it takes for your muscles to heal. You are not supposed to exercise vigorously again until your muscles stop hurting. You can exercise hard on one day and easy on the next few days, or you can train in two sports. This is called cross-training, and it can make you very fit and help to prevent injuries.

Each sport stresses specific muscle groups. Cycling stresses the upper legs, while rowing stresses your back and upper body. If you cycle and row on the same day, you stress your upper legs and upper body on the same day. To reduce your chances of injuring yourself, you should take the next day off, or at least exercise at a very low intensity. If you cycle on Monday and row on Tuesday, you allow your muscles 48 hours to recover from each sport. Pick two sports that use different muscle groups and do them on alternate days. You can then exercise more intensely in each sport and achieve a higher level of fitness.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Knee surgery: Trimming cartilage ineffective

I have said repeatedly that surgery to trim cartilage in the knee is worthless. I have seen many patients who have had cartilage removed by surgeons for an average charge of $5000 and then they must have a knee replacement several years later. The surgeon must know about the harm he is doing because he has to see his patients for followup, when many of them require knee replacement surgery.

Now a report in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that knee surgery to remove cartilage is worse than doing nothing. The headline from Baylor Medical School, where the landmark study was performed, is that "Study Finds Common Knee Surgery No Better Than Placebo." Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee who underwent placebo arthroscopic surgery were just as likely to report pain relief as those who received the real procedure. The researchers say their results challenge the usefulness of one of the most common surgical procedures performed for osteoarthritis of the knee. Lead investigator Dr. Elda P. Way states, "The fact that the effectiveness of arthroscopic lavage or debridement in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee is no greater than that of placebo surgery makes us question whether the one billion plus dollars spent on these procedures might not be put to better use,"

In the study, 180 patients with knee pain were randomized into three groups. One group received debridement, in which worn, torn, or loose cartilage is cut away and removed with the aid of a pencil-thin viewing tube called an arthroscope. The second group underwent arthroscopic lavage, in which loose cartilage is flushed out. The third group underwent simulated arthroscopic surgery; small incisions were made, but no instruments were inserted and no cartilage removed. The people who did not have surgery on their cartilage did better than the people who had some of their cartilage removed.

In the United States, more than 650,000 arthroscopic debridement or lavage procedures are performed each year, at a cost of about $5,000 each. The knee is just two sticks held together by four bands called ligaments. Bones are soft, so the ends of bones are covered with a hard gristle called cartilage. Cartilage serves as a padding to protect the ends of bones. Once cartilage is broken, it can never heal. And once you break a small amount of cartilage in your knee, your knee cartilage can never fit together properly, and every time you put force on the knee, you break off more cartilage.

When surgeons remove cartilage, they leave less cartilage than the person had before the surgery. Eventually the knee joint runs out of cartilage and when bone rubs on bone, it hurts all the time and a peson must have a knee replacement just to be able to sleep at night. Surgery to remove cartilage just hastens knee replacement. On the other hand, doctors can replace torn ligaments, which stabilizes the knee joint. They can remove a loose piece that is blocking the movement of the joint. People with loose cartilage have sudden locking of the knee when they walk or the cannot fully straighten or bend their knees.

As a result of this study and my own impression from treating hundreds of damaged knees, I recommend that you do not get knee surgery unless you have a torn ligament that needs to be repaired or you have sudden locking of the knee during walking or you cannot fully straighten or bend you knee. Otherwise surgery is likely to hasten your need for another surgery, knee replacement.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Glucophage for weight loss

Metformin, sold under the trade name Glucophage, is used to treat diabetes, but several recent papers show that it also helps non-diabetics to lose weight by reducing hunger.

You may be overweight because your body makes too much insulin, especially if your store your fat primarily in your belly. When you eat, your blood sugar level rises. The higher it rises, the more insulin your pancreas releases. Insulin makes you fat by acting on your brain to make you hungry, your liver to manufacture fat, and the fat cells in your belly to fill with fat. So the treatment for this type of obesity is to avoid foods that cause the highest rise in blood sugar and to take medications that prevent your blood sugar levels from rising too high. Avoid bakery products, pastas and all foods made from flour, fruit juices and everything with added sugar. Eat fruits and root vegetables such as potatoes only with meals.

After you eat, sugar goes from your intestines into your bloodstream, and then immediately into your liver. Then your liver releases sugar back into your bloodstream to cause your blood sugar level to rise. To keep blood sugar levels from rising too high, your pancreas release insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin makes you hungry all the time and causes your liver to convert extra calories to fat and it constricts arteries to cause heart attacks. You need insulin to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high to cause diabetes, nerve damage, heart attacks, strokes and kidney damage. Glucophage reduces sugar release from your liver to prevents blood sugar levels from rising too high, so your body doesn't need to produce as much insulin that makes you hungry and causes your liver to make fat.

Glucophage lowers insulin levels, prevents many of the side effects of diabetes and can be used by people who want to lose weight. However, Glucophage is not effective when your blood is acidic from excess lactic acid and recent research shows that exercise, which raises lactic acid, does not cause blood acid levels to rise enough to reduce Glucophage's benefits. Glucophage, itself, does not raise blood lactate levels and is therefore considerably safer than doctors originally thought. Since Glucophage lowers insulin, diabetics should be placed on Glucophage to lower their requirements for all other medications used to treat diabetes.

A common cause of obesity in women is called polycystic ovary syndrome, which is caused by having high blood levels of insulin. Glucophage helps these women to lose weight. See my report on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Glucophage is a safe medication that prevents blood sugar levels from rising too high, but you defeat its effects by taking foods that cause rapid rises in blood sugar levels. So taking Glucophage after eating two bagels will not help you to lose weight. I prescribe 500 mg of Glucophage to be taken a few minutes before you eat, usually three times a day. You should not take it if you have kidney disease, heart failure or any medical condition that could make your blood acidic. There are many drugs that cannot be taken with Glucophage, so check with your doctor about all your medications. If you have nausea or diarrhea, take half a pill (250 mg) in the middle of a meal once a day, and if you then have no symptoms, try to work up to one half a pill before each meal.

References Subscribe

Friday, January 12, 2007

Overtraining: Know the warning signs

One of the most difficult problems for athletes is knowing when you are training too much. You make a muscle stronger only by stressing that muscle, feeling sore on the next day, and taking easy workouts or days off until the soreness goes away. Then you are supposed to take a hard workout again. If you do not feel soreness on the day after a hard workout, you have not injured your muscles, and they will not become stronger. However, if you try to work hard when your muscles feel sore, muscles do not recover and will feel sore all the time.

Every athlete knows that sometimes your muscles still feel little sore several days after a hard workout. You may think that you have recovered from your previous hard workout and you think you are ready to stress your muscles again. So you go ahead and try to run very fast and you start to feel sore all the time. Your joints, muscles and tendons ache. You feel tired. You can still run with the soreness in your muscles and tendons, but the soreness prevents you from running fast. Each succeeding day, the soreness increases and you think that you are sick, so you go to your doctor. He does a complete work-up and everything is normal, so you are stuck with a diagnosis of training too much.

Now you must go back to background training. If your sport is running, jog on the days that you can. Take days off when you feel sore. After several weeks, your muscle start to feel fresh again and you are able to start running. You are ready to start training again, but first you must promise yourself that you will never try to go hard when you feel soreness in your muscles and tendons. Set up a schedule in which you take a hard-fast workout, feel sore on the next day, and then go at an easy pace in your workouts until the soreness has completely disappeared.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Muscles recover faster in the morning

A study from France shows that it takes longer to recover from hard exercise in the evening than in the morning (International Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 27, 2006). Cyclists performed ten six-second bouts of all out effort, with 30-second rest periods while the researchers measured peak power output, total mechanical work, peak pedaling rate, and peak efficient torque. The same group of cyclists performed these workouts in the morning on one day, and in the evening on another day. They found that the short-term recovery patterns were slower in the evening than in the morning.

While the researchers offered no explanation, decreased muscle performance late in the day may have a lot to do with brain function. Each muscle is made up of millions of individual muscle fibers. Each muscle fiber is instructed to contract by a single nerve fiber that receives messages from the brain. Your brain is far more alert after sleeping and napping than after being active for many hours. For example, students score higher in exams taken shortly after waking up than later in the day, and telephone operators answer more calls in the morning than in the afternoon. Late-day mental performance improves after napping, and the same may be true of muscle function.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Soybean products: healthful or harmful?

All plants contain chemicals that are healthful and chemicals that can harm us. Fortunately for us, our ancestors learned which plants are edible and healthful, and taught us to avoid those that are poisonous. However, if you eat very large amounts of one food, you can poison yourself, even though reasonable amounts are harmless or beneficial.

For example, soybeans contain genistein, a weak estrogen that may help to prevent breast cancer. They contain omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart attacks, and are loaded with fiber that helps to prevent diabetes. But they also contain small amounts of trypsin inhibitors that increase risk for pancreatic damage and cancer in animals. Hemagglutinins in soybeans could cause clots to form and travel to the lungs. Goitrogens in soybeans block thyroid function to increase your need for that hormone. Estrogen-like genistein in soybeans could stimulate immature lobules in breast tissue of infants to increase risk for breast cancer many years later. Phytates in soybeans and many other plants can block the absorption of minerals.

However, you would need to eat very large amounts of soy products to get any of these negative effects. Enjoy a moderate amount of soy foods, but do not let health claims lead you to eat huge amounts of soy to the exclusion of other foods. A healthful diet is a varied diet.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Fat Belly? Spot Reduction Doesn't Work

What's the best exercise to get rid of belly fat? Sit-ups, crunches and other exercises can strengthen your belly muscles, but there is no such thing as spot reduction. Exercising a muscle does not get rid of fat over the specific muscles that are exercised. If it did, tennis players would have less fat in their tennis arms, but they don't.

When you take in more calories than your body burns, you store them as fat. You store more that half the fat in your body underneath your skin and over your muscles. Some people store fat primarily in their hips and are at low risk for heart attacks and diabetes, while others who store their fat primarily in their bellies are at increased risk for heart attacks and diabetes. The "ab" exercises can strengthen sagging belly muscles, but they will not remove extra fat from your belly. The only way to lose fat from the place where you store most of your fat (whether it's your belly or your hips) is to lose weight overall.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Get very strong as efficiently as possible

What’s the most efficient way for a beginning weight lifter to become stronger?

A recent study from the University of Sydney in Australia shows that you benefit either from increasing the number of sets of repetitions or from training faster, but not both. Weight lifters were divided into four groups: 1) one set fast 2) three sets fast, 3) one set slow 3) three sets slow. A control group did no lifting. A set was the heaviest weight that they could lift six to eight times in a row. They trained three times a week for six weeks (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, September 2005).

The group that did one slow set increased strength by 25 percent. Three sets produced twice the increase in strength of one set. Fast training resulted in a greater increase in strength than slow training. There was a benefit of training with three sets or fast speeds, but there was no additive benefit of training with both. So unless you are an athlete who needs speed to compete, you can follow a regimen that emphasizes increasing weight, rather than moving faster.

If you want to become strong, check with your doctor to make sure that you do not have a condition that will be aggravated by heavy exercise. Then pick several different exercises, such as a bench press, upright row, and so forth. Start out with a weight that you can lift comfortably six to ten times in a row. Do one set in each exercise, and repeat this workout three times a week. As you become comfortable with this workout, increase to three sets of 6 to 10 repetitions. When you are comfortable with this workout, increase the weight that you lift.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Awkward running form

Many people look terribly uncoordinated when they run. Telling them to change their form will just make them more uncoordinated. If a coach criticizes a team member for poor running form and doesn't correct the underlying causes, the person is likely to become self-conscious about how he or she looks, and run even more slowly. Coordination usually improves just with repeated practice in the chosen sport.

Running form can improve markedly if you can correct muscle imbalances and structural abnormalities with appropriate exercises and perhaps mechanical devices. A coach can videotape the athletes while they run, then review the tape in slow motion to analyze the mechanical defects. For example, leaning forward during running is often caused by weak back muscles, which can be treated with exercises to strengthen the back. Pointing the toes out is often caused by weak lower leg muscles and can be corrected by doing exercises to strengthen the shin muscles. Leaning back on the heels after foot plant can be caused by excessive rolling-in motion of the feet or weak calf muscles.

Treatment often includes special inserts in the shoes and calf strengthening exercises, such as toe raises while holding a heavy weight in the hands. Holding the shoulders up towards the ears during running is usually caused by weak shoulder muscles, which can be corrected by shrugging the shoulders while holding weights. A low knee-lift is often caused by weak quadriceps muscles in the front of the upper leg. The quadriceps can be strengthened by pedaling a bicycle, skating, or running up hills.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Muscles won't turn into fat

You may have heard that if you build up a lot of muscle and then stop exercising, it will turn into fat. Don't use that as an excuse not to exercise. Muscles can't possibly turn to fat. When you exercise, your muscles become larger and stronger because exercise causes extra protein building blocks, called amino acids, to deposit in muscles. All day long, amino acids pass from your muscles into your bloodstream and then back into muscles. Exercise is the major stimulus to force amino acids back into muscles.

When you stop exercising, fewer amino acids go into your muscles so the muscles get smaller. Your body has no way to store extra protein, so amino acids that are not used in your muscles are picked up by your liver, which uses them for energy or converts them into fat for storage. So if you stop exercising, you have to eat less or you will gain weight. But muscles never turn into fat.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Isometric Exercises: Don't Waste Your Time

Isometric exercise means that you push against something that doesn't move, such as a wall. Thirty years ago, most weightlifters and athletes in sports requiring strength used isometric training, but you don't hear much about them anymore. The strength gained through performing isometric contractions is only within 20 degrees of the angle you hold. On the other hand, when you lift weights, you become strong through a wide range of motion. Isometrics cause your blood pressure to rise higher than the other methods of strength training. If you have weak blood vessels or heart trouble, you can rupture a blood vessel or develop an irregular heart beat.

According to Dr. John D. Fair, Chairman of the Department of History at Auburn University, the popularity of isometrics was the result of the success of some weightlifters who took synthetic male hormones called anabolic steroids and then claimed that their isometric exercises made them strong. They claimed that they were doing a revolutionary new training method of pushing against bars that didn't move. The steroids made them stronger by helping them to recover faster from tough workouts so they could do more work. The only stimulus to make a muscle stronger is to exercise that muscle against resistance. You can lift heavy weights, push against special strength machines and push against something that doesn't move, such as a wall or bar attached to the ground. Isometrics are not used much any more, but the steroids are still used, even though they are banned by most sport authorities.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Exercise to Lose Weight (New Year's Resolution #3)

Exercise helps you lose weight by raising your metabolism so you burn more calories for several hours after you finish exercising. A study from Oslo, Norway shows that you have to exercise at almost 50 percent of your maximum capacity to increase your metabolism(1). Only vigorous exercise that increases body temperature and makes you sweat will increase your metabolism enough to continue burning more calories after you finish.

Exercise makes you hungry so you eat more food, but you do not eat enough to equal the increase in calories that you burn during and after hard exercise. However, intense exercise damages muscles and makes you sore. If you exercise vigorously the next day when your muscles are sore you are likely to injure yourself. If you want to exercise vigorously every day, you should choose two sports that use different sets of muscles, such as cycling and rowing. Subscribe to my free newsletter for weekly tips on fitness, nutrition and health.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Start a new exercise program! (New Year's resolution #2)

If you want to become fit and use exercise to help prevent a heart attack, first check with your doctor to make sure that you do not have anything wrong with your heart or blood vessels. Intense exercise can increase your risk for a heart attack if you already have a damaged heart.

Pick any sport or activity that uses continuous motion (such as running, cycling, swimming, skating, rowing, dancing) that you think you might enjoy. Start out at a relaxed pace until your muscles feel heavy and then stop. For the first several days or weeks you may be able to exercise only for a few minutes. If your muscles feel sore the next day, take the day off. Increase the amount of time gradually until you can exercise 30 minutes a day at a relaxed pace and not feel sore. Then you are ready to begin your training for fitness. Try to increase the intensity of your exercise once a week. Do your jogging, cycling or whatever you have chosen as your sport at a slow pace to warm up. Then gradually increase the pace until you start to feel short of breath and your muscles start to feel sore, and then slow down. Then when you recover, pick up the pace again. Repeat these surges until your muscles start to stiffen and then quit for the day. Take the next day off and go easy the rest of the week. Then once a week, keep on making your one-day-a-week hard workout harder and harder. You will be continuously increasing your level of fitness.

The only way to strengthen any muscle is to contract the muscle against increasingly greater resistance. Your heart is a muscle, so the only way to make your heart stronger is to contract it against greater resistance. When you exercise, you alternately contract and relax your skeletal muscles. This alternate contraction and relaxation squeezes the veins near the muscles to pump blood toward the heart. Your heart is muscular balloon. The increased flow of blood returning to your heart goes inside the heart to stretch the balloon and the heart has to contract with greater force to pump the blood from inside the heart toward the body. The increased amount of blood inside the heart stretches the heart muscle to make it stronger.

The harder you contract your skeletal muscles, the more blood you pump toward your heart, the greater the stretch on the heart to make it stronger. So fitness is determined more by how hard you exercise than by how much you exercise because the harder you exercise, the stronger your heart muscle becomes. Going out and running 100 miles a week slowly does not make you very fit because you are not strengthening your heart very much with a little increase in circulation of blood, no matter how long you do it. Compare lifting a very light weight a thousand times in a row to lifting a very heavy weight 10 times in a row. The person lifting the heavy weight 10 times will become stronger than the person lifting a light weight a thousand times. Subscribe

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Best sport for fitness

The best sports for fitness are the ones in which you exercise continuously, those that are least likely to injure you and the ones you enjoy the most. You become fit by exercising vigorously enough to increase the circulation of blood. It makes no difference to your heart how you increase your circulation. The best sports for fitness use your legs because the blood vessels in your legs are so much larger that you can circulate far more blood with your leg muscles. Furthermore, arm exercises tire you earlier because most people have weaker arms.

Some sports require a great level of fitness just to start. For example, to jump rope, you must spin the rope more than 80 times a minute to keep it from tangling. Many people can't jump 80 times a minute. The safest sports are low-impact aerobics, walking, swimming and pedaling a stationary bicycle. Running causes lots of injuries, because the force of your foot striking the ground can be three times your body weight, which can damage muscles and bones.

You are most likely to continue a lifelong fitness program if you pick an activity that you enjoy. However, sports that don’t keep you moving may be fun, but they won’t make you fit. Most tennis players spend about 80 percent of their playing time waiting for the ball; and golfers are usually required to ride in carts, even if they would prefer to walk. Subscribe