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Walking for Fitness

Walking is a very safe sport because it rarely causes injuries. Running causes injuries frequently because you take both feet off the ground at the same time and land with a tremendous force that can tear muscles and shatter bones. On the other hand, when you walk, you always keep at least one foot on the ground and land with minimal foot strike force.

If you want to walk to become fit, you need to move quickly. You should exercise vigorously enough to increase your heart rate at least 20 beats a minute higher than when you rest. That means you will be breathing harder and probably perspiring. There are two ways to increase your walking speed. You can take longer steps or you can move your feet at a faster rate. To lengthen your stride, swivel your hips so you reach out further forward with your feet. This will cause you to twist your body from side to side, which will tend to make you point your toes inward when your feet touch the ground. When you point your toes in, you lose distance. Try to point your toes forward with each step.

To move your feet at a faster rate, you have to move your arms faster. Every time you move one leg forward, your arm on the same side moves back and the arm on the other side moves forward. Your legs will only move as fast as you can move your arms. Bend your elbows so you can move your arms faster. The fulcrum of your arm-swing is at your shoulder. The straighter you keep your elbows, the longer it takes your arms to swing forward and back. Bending your elbows shortens the swing and helps you speed up your pace.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What can I do to prevent colon cancer?

Although scientists are not sure what causes colon or rectal cancers, they know that they are associated with lack of exercise, eating too much meat, and the human wart virus (HPV). A study from Sendai, Japan shows that men who spend a lot of time walking are at reduced susceptibility to developing colon cancer (European Journal of Cancer Prevention, October 2007).

An extensive review of the world's literature shows that colorectal cancer occurs far more frequently in prosperous industrialized countries, and that dietary factors may cause up to 75 percent of these cancers (Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Volume 26, 2007). You are increased risk for colon cancer if you are overweight, and exercise reduces your risk. Rectal cancer is not affected by obesity or exercise, and may be associated more with infection, such as with the HPV virus that causes genital warts. Since the vast majority of people who are infected with HPV do not get cancer, we have to explain why some do. The leading theory is that of cofactors: some combination of infectious agents, genetic susceptibility or lifestyle factors. I think that rectal cancer requires some kind of infection, but you do not develop the cancer unless you also smoke, lack vitamin D, eat a lot of meat, or some other combination of factors. Colon cancer appears to require some combination of factors such as lack of vitamin D, eating meat, not exercising or not eating enough foods from plants. More on colon cancer

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can I impress my aging parents about the importance of exercise?

Researchers at National Cancer Institute in Bethesda showed that engaging in physical activity for at least three hours per week appears to decrease chances of dying early by more than 25 percent (Archives of Internal Medicine, December 24, 2007).

The investigators evaluated the exercise habits of 252,925 adults aged 50 to 71 years who were enrolled in the National Institutes of Health–American Association of Retired Persons (NIH-AARP) Diet and Health Study. 7900 deaths occurred during 1,265,347 person-years of follow-up. Those with the relatively modest exercise program of 30 minutes on most days of the week, or vigorous exercise of at least 20 minutes three times per week, were 27 percent less likely to die during the followup period. The authors state that: "Our findings suggest that engaging in any physical activity by those who are currently sedentary represents an important opportunity to decrease the risk of mortality."

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Recipe of the Week

Crock Pot Stew

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June 25th, 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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