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Spinning Classes Make Vigorous Exercise Fun

Whether you’re out of shape or very fit, spinning classes can help you keep your New Year’s resolutions. You ride a stationary bicycle in a group, with a leader who tells you what to do and plays lively music to set the tempo. Many health clubs and gyms offer these classes, and I recommend them to all of my patients. Spinning is relatively safe because it is done with a smooth rotary motion that does not involve the muscle damaging road shock of running.

The pedals drive a chain that is attached to a heavy flywheel that spins smoothly as you pedal. The amount of work you do is determined by the resistance on your pedals, not by how fast you spin. You perform a lot of work when you spin slowly against great resistance, and do not do much work when you spin very fast against very little resistance. A brake is attached to the flywheel and you regulate the resistance on the pedals by turning the brake clockwise to increase the resistance, and counter-clockwise to decrease resistance.

Before you start real training, you need to do some background work. Start out by pedaling at a very slow rate with no resistance. Stop when your legs start to feel heavy or hurt. You may be able to go ten minutes on the first day, five on the second, and perhaps not be able to exercise on the third. Persist and eventually every healthy person should be able to work up be able to work up to a full 45-minute class.

Your instructor will have you warm up by spinning without any resistance until you start to break a sweat. Then you will turn up the resistance a little and spin the pedals until your thigh muscles start to burn. Then pedal easily with little or no resistance until you have recovered, usually about a minute or two. You will continue to alternate “into the burn” and “out of the burn” until your leg muscles start to stiffen, which is a signal that you are through for the day.

You need to experiment to learn how high you have to turn up the resistance. If you turn it up too high, you will burn out your muscles and not be able to finish the class. If you don’t turn it up high enough, you will not achieve a high level of fitness, not feel sore the next day, and not gain the benefits of being in a high level of fitness. If you have worked out correctly, your thigh muscles will be sore on the next day. Then you have to pedal easily with little or no resistance for as many days as it takes for your muscles to feel fresh again. For most people, this will be one or two days. Then when your muscles are fresh again, you’re ready for another hard workout.


Photo of Diana and Thunder burning off those extra holiday calories


Dear Dr. Mirkin: What’s the latest on preventing Alzheimer’s disease?

A study from Brown University Medical School shows that Alzheimer’s disease may be another form of diabetes, and all the recommendations for avoiding diabetes may also protect your memory (Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, November 2005.) Like the pancreas, the brain produces insulin. Professor Suzanne M. de la Monte showed that brain levels of insulin and insulin receptors fall during the early stages of Alzheimer's and continue to drop progressively as the disease progresses. Other features of Alzheimer's, such as cell death and tangles in the brain, could be caused by abnormalities in insulin functions.

Furthermore, lack of insulin lowers brain levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is seen regularly in Alzheimer's disease. This would explain why every factor known to increase risk for heart attacks also increases risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Even though these studies are preliminary, it is a good idea to reduce susceptibility to developing diabetes by markedly reducing your intake of sugar and flour; increasing your intake of fruits, vegetable, whole grains, beans, and nuts; avoiding weight gain and exercising regularly. Read my report on Who is pre-diabetic.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Now that Viagra and other drugs are available, is there any reason to be concerned about impotence? It’s common for men over 60 to have difficulty maintaining erections. Two studies, one from Italy and one from the US, show that men who are impotent before that age are at significantly increased risk for heart attacks (JAMA, December 21, 2005; Journal of the American College of Cardiology, October 18, 2005.) The most common causes of impo*tence are arteriosclerosis and diabetes. Less common causes include low levels of the male hormone, testosterone, or a brain tumor. So every man who is impotent before age 60 should check with his doctor and get blood tests for arteriosclerosis and diabetes. The tests should include cholesterol, homocysteine, Lipoprotein A, C-reactive protein and HBA1C. They also should get blood tests for testosterone and prolactin, the test for a brain tumor. Since most impotent men will have arteriosclerosis or diabetes, they may need to take appropriate medications, but they certainly should be exercising and follow a heart-attack- preventing diet. Heart-healthy diet and More on impotence.


RECIPES: An Easy Way to Get Your Omega-3’s
Have you visited the canned-seafood section of your supermarket lately? Tuna and salmon now come in foil packets, and new flavors and varieties seem to be added every week. They’re convenient to store, easy to open, tasty and long-lasting. Trader Joe’s carries tuna in curry sauce (in their Thai food section)-- delicious!

You can substitute a 7-ounce packet for a 6-ounce can of tuna or salmon in any of your favorite recipes that call for canned seafood. Here are a few to get you started.

California Tuna Salad
Fruity Seafood Salad
Salade Nicoise

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 26th, 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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