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How to Become Strong in Thirty Minutes a Week

Some body builders lift weights for more than six hours a day, but you don't have to waste that much time to become very strong. Training for weight lifting is done in sets. A set of ten means that you lift and lower a heavy weight ten times continuously before you rest. If you repeat these sets of ten three times with a rest period between each set, you have done three sets of ten.

Most competitive bodybuilders spend hours trying to do many sets over and over again. You don't need to do that. Various studies show that you can gain up to 80 percent of your maximum strength by picking out four to eight specific lifts, lifting one set of ten of the heaviest weight in each, and repeating your program twice a week. The reduced workload causes fewer injuries and leaves you with a lot of extra time to do other things.

Lifting weights enlarges your muscles and makes you stronger, but it does not make you fit. Fitness refers to your heart and is gained by exercising in an activity where you move continuously, such as running, cycling, skating, dancing, walking or swimming. A complete exercise program should include lifting weights twice a week and doing a continuous sport three times a week. Alternating your activities gives your muscles a chance to recover and helps to prevent injuries.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What can I do to correct chronic constipation?

Check with your doctor who will usually order thyroid tests and a barium enema to rule out obstruction. Most of the time, these tests will be normal and you suffer from a faulty diet. The pain of constipation is usually caused by gas stretching your colon where it has been blocked by hard stool. Food is turned into a soup in your stomach and remains that way until it reaches your colon, where water is absorbed and stool is formed. If you don't drink enough fluid or eat enough fiber, the stool rapidly turns into hard pieces that are difficult to pass. Low-fiber foods, such as breads, rolls, pastries, bagels, pretzels, noodles and pasta cause hard stools, while eating fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, keep everything soft.

If you drink lots of water and eat lots of fiber and are still constipated, you may have nerve damage and need to be checked for diabetes or other causes. Laxatives and fiber supplements offer little help, but your doctor may prescribe other drugs, such as the antibiotic, erythromycin; the gout medicine, colchicine; or the stomach medicine, Prevacid, which may be helpful in some cases of chronic constipation.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why do some types of exercise seem to cause more muscle soreness than others?

Hard exercise tears your muscle fibers to shreds. If a researcher cuts out a piece of your muscle on the day after you exercise vigorously and looks at it under a microscope, he will see bleeding and disruption of filaments that hold the fibers together as they slide over each other during a contraction.

Muscles contain chemicals called enzymes that help you to convert foodstuffs to energy. When muscles are damaged by hard exercise, they release enzymes, such as CPK, into the bloodstream. Doctors can then measure levels of CPK enzymes in the bloodstream to determine how badly muscles are damaged. Those exercisers with the highest post-exercise blood levels of CPK also have the most muscle soreness. Running fast downhill and lifting very heavy weights cause more post-exercise soreness than other exercises because they cause the most muscle damage; they also take the longest time for recovery.

You can prevent muscle soreness by stopping exercising when your muscles start to feel sore, but then you will not improve. All athletic training is done by stressing your muscles with a hard workout, taking easy workouts until the soreness disappears, and then taking another hard workout.

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Recipe of the Week:
Banana Rice Pudding

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 27th, 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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