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Short, Intense Workouts Improve Fitness and Health

Don't complain that you do not have enough time to gain the health benefits of exercise. A new study shows that forty minutes of intense exercise, three times a week for 10 weeks:
• increased VO2max,
• lowered blood pressure,
• lowered blood sugar levels,
• reduced body fat, and
• lowered total cholesterol, the bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and the oxidized LDL cholesterol that forms plaques in arteries. (PLOS One, June 4, 2013).

VO2max measures the maximal ability to take in and use oxygen. It is a measure of fitness level that also predicts how long a person is likely to live (Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999;31: S646-662).

The Study's Training Protocol
In this study, men who had not exercised for at least two years and did not have heart or lung disease, exercised on an inclined treadmill three times a week. They took:
• a 10-minute warm up at 70 percent of their maximum heart rate, followed by
• four sets of four minutes each, of jogging at 90 percent of maximum heart rate, followed by three minutes of active recovery at 70 percent maximum heart rate, followed by
• a five-minute cool-down
Total exercise time for each session was 40 minutes. At 90 percent of maximum heart rate, a person gasps for breath and cannot carry on a conversation.

Intense Exercise Provides Increased Health Benefits
Athletes learn that they cannot compete effectively unless they train at a level at or near their maximal intensity. To do this, most athletes use a technique called interval training. They exercise at near their maximum intensity for a short time and become very short of breath. They recover their breath by slowing down for a short period, and then go as hard as they can again. They repeat these intervals until their muscles start to hurt and feel stiff. The next day they are sore and train at a much slower pace.

Many recent research papers show that the interval training technique used by athletes can provide health benefits that would take far longer to achieve with training at a lower intensity. This new study shows that people can use very intense exercise to become fit and improve their health in as little as 40 minutes three times a week. Interval training will strengthen your heart far more than less-intense training. Caution: People who already have blocked arteries leading to their hearts need to be cautious with interval training because their hearts may not be strong enough to tolerate the extra work of intense training. Therefore, you should probably check with your doctor before starting intense interval training.

Reports from

Raise growth hormone with exercise
Over-the-counter estrogens
Sugar during exercise

Oral Cancer, a Sexually-Transmitted Disease

In an interview with a British newspaper, The Guardian, 68 year-old actor Michael Douglas reported that he was diagnosed with a walnut-sized cancer on his tongue in 2010. He believes that his cancer was caused by an infection with the virus, HPV, acquired during oral sex. He is certainly not alone; the incidence of HPV-related head, neck and throat cancers has risen by more than 225 percent between 1988 and 2004. More than 80 percent of people will be infected with HPV within five years of becoming sexually active. The person most likely to suffer HPV-caused cancer of the mouth or throat is a middle-aged, non-smoking male. Other known causes of oral cancer include smoking and excessive alcohol. Patients whose mouth cancers are caused by HPV are more likely to survive because their tumors respond better to surgery and radiation.

HPV-caused mouth cancers typically occur many years after a sexually-transmitted infection with HPV. This week, at the conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, researchers reported that partners of people with HPV-caused throat cancers are not at increased risk for HPV infections.

Almost 150 different Human Papilloma Viruses have been identified. Some are more likely to cause warts, others are more likely to cause cancer, and still others do not cause any known disease. Most sexually active people have already been infected with HPV, which is usually acquired through rubbing skin on the skin of an infected person.

Most people who are infected with HPV clear the virus within six to nine months and do not develop any symptoms. Those in whom the virus persists and those who are infected with the specific cancer-causing types are the ones most likely to suffer cancers of the cervix, anus, head or neck. Oral cancers are often found when a dentist checks a person's mouth, tongue, and head and neck lymph nodes. Diagnosis is always by biopsy and examination under a microscope.

Of the 150 known HPVs, only four are known to cause significantly increased risk for cancer. Two of the cancer-causing viruses are in each of the currently-available vaccines. The vaccines prevent infection only if a person receives them before he or she is exposed to the cancer-causing HPVs. Once you have been exposed to HPV, the vaccine does not protect you. There is no treatment for chronic HPV infection, so most doctors see no advantage to doing cultures for HPV.

Nobody has shown that giving the vaccine makes young people more likely to have sex. One study followed almost 1,400 girls, age 11 and 12, of whom 493 had received the vaccine. Three years later, the vaccinated and unvaccinated girls had the same rates of sexual exposure, pregnancy, use of contraceptives, and infection with sexually transmitted diseases other than HPV.

This week's medical history:
Typhoid Mary’s Gall Bladder

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries


Recipe of the Week:

Catfish Gumbo

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book
- it's FREE

June 9th, 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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