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Use Different Types of Exercise for Fitness and Muscle Strength

You can't train for heart muscle fitness and skeletal muscle strength with the same exercises. To strengthen your heart muscle, you must exercise vigorously enough to speed up your heart rate and keep it elevated for a while. To strengthen your skeletal muscles, you need to exercise against increasing resistance in short, hard bouts.

To make your heart muscle stronger, you need to exercise vigorously enough to make your heart pump more blood. The formula for heart-lung fitness is to exercise intensely enough to raise your heart rate at least 20 beats a minute above your resting rate at least three times a week. If you can't exercise continuously for thirty minutes, work until you feel tired, rest, then repeat the cycle, and gradually build up your endurance. The longer and harder you exercise, the more blood you circulate and the stronger your heart will become.

To strengthen your skeletal muscles, you need to exercise against increasing resistance by lifting weights, pushing against strength-training machines, or moving against gravity (such as jogging or cycling up hills). The greater the resistance without causing injury, the greater the gain in strength. However, when you exercise against resistance, your muscles fatigue very rapidly. If you exercise against resistance for more than 50 continuous seconds, you increase your risk of tearing your muscles.

A good program to strengthen both your heart and your skeletal muscles would include cycling, swimming or jogging on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and using strength machines on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do you recommend carrying weights while walking or jogging?

The only advantage to exercising while carrying weights is that you can get more exercise while moving slowly. To strengthen your heart, you have to exercise vigorously enough to increase your heart rate at least 20 beats a minute above resting. How fast your heart beats depends on how much blood it has to pump to your body. When you run and carry hand weights, your heart has to pump blood to your exercising leg muscles and also has to do extra work to pump blood to your arm muscles. That means that you can achieve the same heart rate when you run more slowly.

Competitive runners should never carry hand weights. How fast you run in races depends on how fast you run in practice. Carrying hand weights slows you down, so you become a slower runner. Carrying weights also interferes with the natural motion of your arms while running. On the other hand, carrying weights can help to protect people who develop frequent running injuries. Carrying hand weights slows them down, so less force is directed at their leg muscles while they run. Hand weights will not do much to increase your arm strength, because to become stronger, you have to lift progressively heavier weights.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will fasting help to remove toxins from my body?

Your colon does such a good job of moving food waste through that toxic products do not accumulate. For more than 50 years, a Texas health practitioner, Herbert Shelton, advocated fasting to treat diseases and prolong life, and some of his patients died. Shelton claimed that undigested food in the colon is converted to toxic waste products that cause cancer and shorten life. He recommended fasting to give the colon a rest and allow the colon to rid itself of waste products. In 1982, a federal jury awarded $873,000 to the family of William Carlton, who died while fasting under Mr. Shelton's supervision. In spite of this, the practice is still promoted by entrepreneurs who want yo to buy their colon cleansing products.

Most people can tolerate fasting for a few days. After that, they must break down their body for energy, like Humphrey Bogart breaking up his boat, The African Queen, to burn the wood to keep his engine going. First they consume their body fat, then their muscles, and within four days of complete fasting, their heart muscle. Eventually the heart becomes so weak that it can’t pump blood through the body. The cause of death in starvation is heart failure and the longest that anyone has been recorded to survive with no food is 66 days.

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Recipe of the Week:

Cranberry-Wild Rice Salad

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

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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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