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Virtually All Arthritics Should Do Some Form of Exercise

People who suffer from arthritis need to exercise regularly because lack of exercise damages joints (Arthritis Care & Research, January 2011). Even people with severe joint disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, need to exercise (Journal of Aging Research: Aging, Physical Activity and Disease Prevention, 2011).

However, more than half of women and 40 percent of men with arthritis get virtually no exercise whatever (Arthritis & Rheumatism, August, 2011). Researchers asked more than 1000 people with proven osteoarthritis of their knees to wear a pedometer. Only one in seven men and one in 12 women moved their knees for 20 minutes or more per day. Lack of movement is deleterious to arthritics' health because the most effective way to prevent joint destruction from arthritis is to keep the joints moving.

People with arthritis typically have stiffness and pain when they wake up in the morning. They hurt most after being inactive and feel better after they move around for a while. Exercise warms up muscles and joints to help relieve some of the joint and muscle pain and stiffness. A regular exercise program can help delay and prevent disability in people with arthritis by strengthening muscles that can help to control excessive range of motion that can damage joints. It also allows people with arthritis to keep on moving. Arthritics should participate in at least a half hour each day of moderate-intensity, low-impact activity. Of course, all people with joint pain should first check with their doctors for their proper diagnosis and treatment.

Rules for exercise for arthritics:
• If joint pain worsens when you start to exercise, check with your doctor to see if you have loose or broken cartilage that can cause further joint damage.
• If you already have joint damage, the safest exercises are usually walking and water exercises.
• Try to exercise with a group. When you miss a workout, you will have to explain to your friends why you weren't there.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Can cross training (riding a bicycle) help me run faster?

It is unlikely that cycling helps running performance and vice versa. In his book, "Lore of Running" (2003), Timothy Noakes reviewed the world's scientific literature and found no evidence that cycling helps competitive runners run faster. Every runner and cyclist who is injured and is forced to exercise in the other sport learns this. Each day away from your specific sport makes you slower in your sport.

Training is specific. The best way to train for running is to run. Running strengthens primarily the lower leg muscles, while cycling strengthens primarily the upper leg muscles. Nobody has ever shown that cycling makes you a faster runner, or that running makes you a better cyclist.

Most research show that cycling does not help to prevent injuries in runners. Many studies show that strength training, such has lifting weights, may help some cyclists to cycle faster and some runners to run faster (Sports Medicine, March, 1998). Many studies show that resistance training can improve endurance in running and cycling. However, resistance training can markedly increase injury rates in runners and cyclists.

If you are a runner who has a lower leg injury, you can maintain heart and lung fitness by riding a bicycle. Cyclists with upper leg injuries may be able to do the same with running. Runners who cannot run because of soft tissue injuries can maintain their maximal ability to take in and use oxygen (VO2max) with either cycling or water running (American Journal of Sports Medicine, January 1993).

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does the hCG diet really help you lose weight?

Yes, but researchers have been unable to show that human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone found in pregnant women's urine, is the reason for the weight loss, or that it reduces hunger or improves mood as some proponents of the diet claim. For more than forty years, the Food and Drug Administration has required labels stating that hCG "is not an effective adjunctive therapy" for weight loss. HCG is offered by injection, nasal spray and pills, but the hormone is inactivated by stomach acids.

The diet recommends that you take in only 500 calories a day and everyone will lose weight on that few calories. To maintain weight, most men need to take in at least 2500 calories per day and women at least 1700.

Furthermore, both near-starvation diets and injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) can harm you. HCG increases levels of estrogen, leptin, insulin and cortisol, all of which can cause terrible disease when levels rise above normal. It also has been reported to be associated with increased risk for blood clots, headaches, and fatigue.

Another problem with the diet is what a person has to do to keep the weight off. The injections and severe calorie restriction program cannot be followed long-term, so people involved in the program must learn how to change their lifestyles permanently to maintain weight lost on this diet or any other weight loss program.

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Recipe of the Week:

Mango-Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars

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

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August 21st, 2011
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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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