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Get the Most from your Warm-Up Time

Warming up before you exercise helps to prevent injuries and lets you jump higher, run faster, lift heavier or throw further. A study from Belgium shows that competitive athletes in sports requiring speed and endurance perform better after they warm up intensely before competition (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, December 2003)

Warming up can prevent injuries because muscles are made up of millions of individual fibers, just like a rope made from many threads. When you start to exercise at a very slow pace, you increase the blood flow to muscle fibers, increase their temperature, and bring in more oxygen, so the muscles are more pliable and resistant to injury. When you contract a muscle for the first time, you use less than one percent of your muscle fibers. The second time you bring in more fibers, and you keep on increasing the number of muscle fibers used in each contraction for several minutes of using that muscle. It’s called recruitment. When you are able to contract more muscle fibers, there is less force on each individual fiber to help protect them from injury. Usually you are warmed up when you start to sweat.

However, warming up slowly does not increase the maximum amount of oxygen that you can bring to muscles that you need during competition. This study shows that warming up intensely increases endurance because intensity increases the maximum amount of oxygen that you can bring to your muscles, as you continue to compete, and lets your muscles contract with greater force as you begin to fatigue. If you are a competitive runner, skier, cycler, or an athlete in any sport that requires endurance, warm up at a gradually increasing pace. Then use a series of increasingly intense repetitions of 10 to 30 seconds duration, with short recoveries, until you are near your maximum pace. You will then be able to bring in more oxygen to your muscles than you could have done without the intense warmup.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I read that microwaving broccoli destroyed all of its antioxidants. Should I stop using my microwave oven?

No. The researchers in this study cooked the broccoli in 2/3 cup of water for 5 minutes at full power (Journal of Science in Food and Agriculture, November 2003). Antioxidants were destroyed by the long cooking in water at a high temperature, not by microwaves. The study authors noted that it’s the length of time vegetables are exposed to hot water that determines the amount of water-soluble nutrients lost, whether the cooking is done in a microwave oven, steamer, pot or pressure cooker. Unfortunately, newspaper reporters misinterpreted the study and scared many people away from their microwave ovens. If you follow the standard instructions for microwaving vegetables, using just a tablespoon or two of water for a short time, the effect is similar to steaming and antioxidant loss will be minimal.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I’d like to exercise with my husband, but he’s much stronger than I am. Is there any way we can both keep from getting frustrated?

You’re not alone; many couples don't exercise together because one partner is much more fit than the other. Riding a tandem bicycle is a great equalizer. The amount of work you do on a bicycle depends on how hard you push on the pedals. Pushing twice a hard on the pedals takes twice the work, so a world-class bicycle racer can ride with a novice and still get a good workout. Even a beginner will be able to keep up with the spinning pedals, no matter how fast they go. The less-fit partner just applies little or no pressure so he or she will not get tired. No matter how hard one partner tries to leave the other, you will always be together.

You can go faster together than the faster person can go alone. The more experienced rider sits in the front seat. If both are equally good riders, the taller one usually sits in front. The person who sits in the back copies the motions of the person in the front. At first it may seem strange not to have any control over steering, shifting or braking, but the you have the big advantage of being able to exercise only as hard as you like while enjoying the scenery.

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For a party buffet or dinner anytime -- a truly beautiful, elegant and delicious whole-meal salad:
Salade Nicoise

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 27th, 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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