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Slower Pace or Rest Between Races? It’s Your Choice

If you compete in sports that require repeated short bursts of very fast running, such as in basketball, soccer, or football, will you recover faster by standing still or by continuing to move at a slower pace? A study from Brooklyn College in New York showed that it doesn’t make any difference (International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, February 2006). Researchers asked fit athletes to perform multiple bouts of exercising to exhaustion. Between the bouts of vigorous exercise, one group spent 12 minutes staying completely still, while the other group continued to exercise at less than 20 percent of their maximum workload. Athletes in both groups showed equal recoveries and performances.

However, those who stayed still between all-out efforts had blood that was more acidic than those who continued to exercise. Many athletes believe that lactic acid buildup in muscles hinders their performance, but this study shows that blood acidity has little to do with recovery from hard exercise. When you exercise so intensely that you cannot get all the oxygen you need, lactic acid starts to accumulate in your muscles and spills out into your bloodstream to make your blood more acidic. This can make your muscles burn and hurt, but it will not delay your recovery for your next bout of all-out effort.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Can an over-active immunity be cause by poor diet?

The latest data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) shows that an unhealthy diet causes inflammation, which in turn causes heart attacks (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2006). Doctors can measure how active your immunity is with blood tests such as CRP, homocysteine, and IL-6. MESA showed that a diet high in fatty and processed meats, flour, high-fat diary products, fried potatoes, salty snacks or desserts is associated with high levels of blood markers for inflammation. In contrast, whole grains, fruits, nuts, green vegetables and fish were associated with very low levels of these markers.

When a germ gets into your body, your immunity is supposed to make proteins called antibodies that attach to the germs and paralyze them and cells that gobble them up. However if your immunity stays active, these same antibodies and cells start to destroy your body. An overactive immunity is called inflammation, and it increases your risk for heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, arthritis, asthma and many other diseases and conditions. Here is more evidence that eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds reduces inflammation, for a longer and more healthful life. See my modified DASH diet

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is it more important to exercise when you are young or when you are old?

Studies of Harvard and University of Michigan varsity letter-winners have shown that they do not live longer than their less-athletic classmates, but people who exercise regularly as they age live three to seven years longer than non-exercisers. Other studies show that athletes have no lower risk of heart attacks later in life than their less athletic peers unless they continue to exercise as they age. Former athletes who continue to exercise have lower blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides and higher levels of the good HDL cholesterol that prevents heart attacks. This is called reversibility. Every benefit gained by exercising is lost soon after you stop. Muscles enlarged by lifting heavy weights return to their previous size within a few weeks after you stop lifting. People who do aerobic exercise lose their slow heart rates and greater endurance soon after they stop regular workouts.

Regular exercise is the most effective way to prevent the gradual weight gain that often comes with aging. If you're tired of being out of shape, check with your doctor. Then pick a continuous sport that you will enjoy doing, such as walking, swimming, cycling or dancing. Start out by exercising slowly and comfortably until your muscles start to feel heavy or hurt, and then stop for the day. Do this every other day and gradually increase the time you spend exercising, always stopping when your muscles feel heavy or hurt. When you can exercise continuously for 30 minutes, three times a week regularly, you are fit and don't need to do more unless you want to.

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Recipe of the Week:

Summer Barley-Bean Salad

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

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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