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Coaches Believe Stretching Prevents Injuries

There is little scientific evidence that stretching helps to prevent athletic injuries. However, a survey of high school coaches in Michigan shows that almost all stretch their athletes for an average of 13 minutes prior to practice or competition.
Almost 95 percent of the coaches believe that stretching helps to prevent injuries, and nearly 73 percent feel that there are no drawbacks to stretching (Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, May 2006). They felt that their personal experience and scientific evidence support their stretching practices.

Before you decide that scientific research is more correct than coaches’ opinions, realize that many athletic principles were used by coaches long before the scientific community showed evidence to support them. Runners have used interval training for more than 90 years and the first scientific evidence to explain its benefits was published just this year.

Muscles tear because the force on them is greater than their inherent strength, so injuries should be prevented by strengthening muscles, not by stretching them. There is data to show that stretching elongates muscles and tendons to allow a greater torque about a joint, which allows athletes to throw further, lift heavier, run faster, and jump higher. There is no good scientific data to show that stretching prevents injuries, but it may. Coaches and scientists do agree that you should not stretch cold muscles, so if you choose to stretch before your workout, warm up your muscles first.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does your heart get tired during exercise?

A healthy heart is so strong that it is almost never a cause of tiredness during exercise. Tiredness during exercise comes from your muscles. They run out of fuel or out of oxygen. Skeletal muscles use both fat and sugar for energy. When your muscles run out of their stored sugar supply, called glycogen, they cannot contract and function adequately. You feel tired, your muscles hurt and you have difficulty coordinating them. On the other hand, your heart muscle gets energy directly from fat and sugar in your blood and even from a breakdown product of metabolism called lactic acid. It is virtually impossible for the heart muscle to run out of fuel unless you are starving to death.

A healthy heart doesn't run out of oxygen either. Oxygen comes to the heart directly through arteries on its outside surface. If these arteries are not plugged up with plaques, they are large enough to supply all the oxygen that the heart can possibly need. However, fatty plaques in arteries can block the flow of blood. When the heart does not get enough blood, it will hurt and can start to beat irregularly. Exercise won't make a healthy heart hurt. If you develop chest pain during exercise, something is wrong and you need to check with a doctor immediately.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why is belly fat so dangerous?

If you store more fat in your belly than in your hips, your cells are likely to be resistant to insulin which puts you at high risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and premature death. In one recent study, researchers measured insulin resistance and compared it to several risk factors for diabetes in men and women: 1) heart-lung fitness; 2) whole-body fatness and 3) abdominal obesity (Diabetes Care, March 2006). They showed that lack of physical fitness and overweight are very significant predictors of diabetes in men and women and that the single most important measure of insulin resistance is storing fat in the belly rather than the hips.

Storing fat in your belly causes you to store excess fat in your liver, which interferes with its function of removing insulin from your bloodstream after it has done its job of driving sugar into cells. When your blood sugar rises after meals, your pancreas is supposed to release enough insulin to keep it from rising too high. If your cells cannot respond to insulin adequately, you are called insulin resistant, your blood sugar rises too high and your pancreas releases huge amounts of insulin. When your blood sugar rises too high, sugar sticks to cells. Once there, the sugar cannot get off the cells and is eventually converted to a poison called sorbitol that destroys the cells to damage nerves, arteries and other tissues throughout your body. Excess insulin acts on your brain to make you eat more and on your arteries to cause heart attacks. More

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Quick recipes for summer days . . .

Fastest Beans and Rice
Quick Shrimp Curry
Easy Veggie Burger Chili

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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