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The Real Meaning of Fitness

The latest research shows that the recommendations of exercising for 30 minutes there times a week does not make you fit, nor does exercising for 60 minutes seven days a week. To become fit, you have to make your heart and skeletal muscles stronger. Exercising at a casual pace does not strengthen muscles.

That means that going out and jogging slowly so that your leg muscles are always comfortable and do not burn will not make you fit. Lifting a weight ten times in a row and not feeling a burn in your muscles when you do it will not make you stronger.

When you exercise intensely, your muscles are stretched and tear. It's the tearing that causes the burn and the soreness that you feel for the next day or two. When your muscles heal from these tears, they are stronger than they were before. So it's the burn that causes the tearing that causes the injury, that allows the healing that makes a muscle stronger.

However, there are some serious problems with training for real fitness. If you do too much when your muscles burn, you will tear them. If your muscles are still sore from a previous workout and you try to exercise intensely so that they burn, you will tear them.

What I am about to say applies only to healthy people. It could cause heart attacks in people with damaged hearts. Before trying this, you may want to check with your doctor. The rules for fitness are that you should spend several months just exercising at a casual pace and not going for the burn. After a few months, you should be able to exercise 30 minutes every day and not feel sore. Then start training. If you are a runner or a biker, go out and run or ride very fast until your legs burn , slow down until the burning goes away, then when you feel fresh again, pick up the pace. When your legs start to stiffen, stop the workout. On the next day, either do nothing or go slowly and do not try to do another intense workout until your muscles feel fresh. Then repeat the workout. You will be amazed how much stronger and faster you become in just a few weeks. Remember, trying to exercise intensely on sore muscles will only injure you.

Let me tell you what Diana and I have done. Together, we are 126 years old. Several months ago, we started climbing a half mile, very steep hill in a very high gear on our tandem bicycle. We started with a 2/2 and have worked up to a 2/6 front to back gears. As we climb, the pressure on the pedals becomes so great that we can barely go three miles an hour and have to pull up on our handle bars with all our might just not to fall over. We gasp for breath and when we reach the top, it takes more than a minute to recover. Because of this slow strength training, we have gotten much faster when we ride on level ground. You can also become stronger by doing workouts of riding very fast, going slowly until you recover and riding very fast again. The message is that to be able to jump higher, lift heavier, throw further and run faster, you have to take workouts that cause your muscles to burn at least once and possibly twice a week.

Checked 8/9/08

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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