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Marathon Times Do Not Drop Before Fifty

You should be able to compete effectively in sports that require endurance well into your later years. Researchers at the German Sports University in Cologne, Germany analyzed competitive marathon times and showed that trained men and women did not have a significant drop in their race times until they reached their fiftieth birthdays (International Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 28, 2007). Average marathon and half- marathon times were virtually identical for age groups from 20 to 49 years. Furthermore, the drop in performance for the 50 to 69- year-old subjects was only in the range of 2.6 percent to 4.4 percent for each decade. As expected, women's times for each age group were slower than the men's times by about 10 percent for the marathon and 13 percent for the half-marathon.

These results show that most older athletes are able to maintain a high degree of physical fitness and suggest that most infirmity with aging is caused by lack of exercise, rather than just by the passage of years. If you exercise regularly, expect to be able to be stronger, faster and better coordinated than your peers who do not exercise.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What should I eat after a hard workout?

A study from James Madison University shows that runners recover faster when they take in large amounts of protein, carbohydrates and antioxidants after their workouts (International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Volume 17, 2007). Athletes train by taking a workout hard enough to damage their muscles, feeling sore on the next day, and then going easy for as many days as it takes for the soreness to lessen or disappear. The sooner they recover from their hard workouts, the sooner they can take another hard workout and the stronger they will be.

This study confirms many others that show that taking carbohydrates and proteins immediately after exercise hastens muscle healing and gets rid of the soreness faster. The defect in this study is that the authors fed a drink that combines protein, carbohydrate and antioxidant vitamins. They concluded that you need all three components to recover faster, and that a drink is superior to food. However, other studies show that you can get the same benefit from a wide variety of foods that are rich in protein and carbohydrates, and that these foods would be so rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that it would not be necessary to take any supplements.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why would vitamin D deficiency increase risk for diabetes?

Many people think of vitamin D as the vitamin that helps to prevent rickets, a disease characterized by weak bones that break easily. However, vitamin D does much more than that. It is necessary for your immune system to search out and destroy invading bacteria, viruses and even cancer cells. Recent studies show that lack of vitamin D prevents your body from responding to insulin adequately. The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that having low levels of vitamin D increases risk for high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and having high blood levels of triglycerides (Archives of Internal Medicine, Volume 167, 2007). Researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts showed that obesity increases a person's chances of having low vitamin D levels (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, May 2007). A possible explanation is that fat sops up the available vitamin D so that it is not readily available to be used by the body.

Most people do not get adequate amounts of vitamin D from the food that they eat. They must depend on sunlight. People with dark skin require more sunlight to meet their needs for that vitamin, which could explain the increased risk for diabetes in dark-skinned people who live far from the equator. Calcium blocks the activation of vitamin D so people who take calcium supplements need to get extra sunlight or take vitamin D supplements. The large amount of calcium in milk can lower vitamin D levels even when the milk is fortified with the vitamin.

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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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