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Late-Night Exercise Does Not Disturb Sleep

Many fitness instructors give you bad advice when they tell you not to exercise within three hours of going to sleep. Three controlled studies on the effect of exercising before going to sleep show that exercising vigorously before going to bed does not interfere with sleep. One of the studies showed that three hours of vigorous pedaling at 70 percent of maximum oxygen uptake in very bright lights did not stop fit men from falling or staying asleep.

The old argument was that vigorous exercise raises causes your body to produce large amounts of its own stimulants, adrenalin and nor-adrenalin, that make your heart beat rapidly, raise body temperature and prevent you from feeling tired. Now we have studies showing that doesn't happen. We also know that exercise helps to prevent disease, prolong life and make you feel good. So it is better to exercise whenever you can, even if it's just before you go to bed.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: My gym has a sauna. Should I use it as part of my exercise program? I've heard various health claims.

Taking a sauna may make you feel good, but it will not make you fit and it will not make you more healthy by eliminating toxic substances from your body. Fitness refers to your heart and the only way that you can make your heart stronger is to exercise vigorously enough to increase your circulation so that your heart beats at a faster rate. When you sit in a sauna, your temperature rises. To keep it from rising too high, your heart pumps extra blood to your skin and your sweat evaporates to cool you off. However, the increased circulation caused by sitting in the heat is not enough to make you fit. It is insignificant when compared to the increased circulation of blood to muscles during exercise. To become fit, you have to exercise.

Healthy people do not need to sweat away toxins in a sauna. Normal kidneys can get rid of all the breakdown products of metabolism that your body produces. On the other hand, if your kidneys are severely damaged, sweating can help to get rid of some of the breakdown products of metabolism.

When you use the sauna, make sure that the humidity is low. Saunas are set as high as 185 degrees Fahrenheit, and wet heat can burn your skin, while dry heat is far less likely to do so. Don't take a sauna after drinking alcohol and don't stay there when you start to feel uncomfortable. Saunas can cause heat stroke.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Can antioxidants improve memory?

Possibly. Your body produces powerful chemicals called oxidants that are good because they help to remove aged and damaged cells and infectious agents from your body. These same oxidants can be bad because they can also damage and destroy healthy cells, so you also produce antioxidants to remove oxidants before they can destroy your healthy cells.

Many scientists feel that loss of mental function governing memory and coordination is caused by excess exposure to oxidants, and that certain foods can slow down aging by providing antioxidants for your body. In one study, rats were fed large amounts of antioxidant-containing strawberries, spinach or blueberries. The blueberry-fed rats retained their coordination far better than the spinach or strawberry groups, probably because blueberries contain large amounts of anthocyanin flavonoids that give them their blue color. Studies such as this one should not encourage you to take antioxidant supplements. Get your antioxidants from your food. A healthful diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds is loaded with many different antioxidants and the other nutrients you need for a strong mind and a strong body.

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FOUR NEW SALAD RECIPES featuring canned beans -– a quick and easy way to make a salad into a whole meal.

Black Bean Jumble Salad
Cuban Mango Salad
Minnesota Salad
Two-Bean Cabbage Slaw

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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