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Weight Gained When You Stop Exercising May Be Hard to Lose

If you want to use exercise to help control your weight, don't stop. Paul Williams of the University of California at Berkeley showed that interrupting an exercise program can cause you to gain weight that won't come off easily even after you resume training (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, February 2008).

Williams compared 17,280 men and 5,970 women who decreased their running distances with 4,632 men and 1,953 women who increased their running distances over an eight year period. He found that runners who decreased their distance from five to zero miles per week gained four times as much weight as those who decreased their distance from 25 to 20 miles per week. He also found that people who started running after an exercise layoff didn't lose weight until their mileage exceeded 20 miles per week in men, and 10 miles per week in women.

The people in the lower mileage groups were not able to lose the weight gained during time off if they just resumed the same exercise regimen. This study explains why exercise programs designed to prevent obesity may fall short if the exercise is irregular, seasonal, or often interrupted. "Many scientists attribute the obesity epidemic to excess calories rather than [lack of] exercise, because dieting has been shown to produce more weight loss than exercise," says Williams. "My findings suggest that calorie intake and body weight may be self regulating in active individuals."


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does sexual activity stress the heart more than exercise?

No; a study from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in New Brunswick shows that the stress on the heart from making love is relatively insignificant, compared to that caused by exercising (The American Journal of Cardiology, December 2007). Nineteen men and thirteen women performed a maximal-effort stress test (exercising vigorously on a treadmill) followed by home-monitored sexual activity using heart rate and blood pressure recording devices. During sexual activity the men had maximum heart rates 28 percent lower than during exercise, and systolic blood pressure 20 percent lower. In the women the heart rate was 36 percent lower and blood pressure 25 percent lower.

The duration of treadmill exercise slowed by nine seconds for each additional year of age, and duration of sexual activity slowed by one minute for each year of age. How long they could make love correlated with how long they could run on a treadmill. For each additional minute on the treadmill, the person could make love for an additional 2.3 minutes.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Are intense competitive sports harmful for young children?

Today, if you want your children to be champion athletes, they need to start training at a young age and play their sport 12 months a year. So naturally you want to know if heavy athletic training before and during the period of rapid growth in children will harm then in any way. The most common concern is whether heavy training will make them shorter as adults or damage the growth plates in their bones. Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan studied young gymnasts, swimmers and tennis players and showed that participation in these sports does not shorten their adult height. Furthermore it did not affect the age when they entered puberty (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, January 2008).

The biggest concern about starting training this early is not physical, it's whether you will destroy a child's desire to play that sport after you have taken away his or her childhood. Children as young as five years old are shipped off to Florida where they have private tutors and play tennis for several hours a day. Young football players are encouraged to take supplements. Gymnasts work out for six hours a day and are told to restrict calories. Try not to be one of those parents or coaches who place athletic training above the child's best interests.


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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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