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Understanding Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness

If you exercise properly, you are supposed to work hard enough to damage your muscles so they feel sore on the next day. This is called delayed-onset muscle soreness. You should then exercise at reduced intensity for as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away.

An article from St Mary’s University College in New Zealand reviews scientific studies on exercise-induced muscle damage (Sports Medicine, December 2008). When muscles feel sore from exercise, they are swollen and leak proteins from inside their cells into the bloodstream, and they cannot generate their usual force. You really have no choice. You must put far less pressure on sore muscles or you will injure them, delaying recovery and your ability to exercise intensely again.

Sore muscles heal faster if you take the next day off, but exercising gently during recovery will make your muscles more fibrous so they can withstand more pressure when you take your next intense workout.

Eating foods with protein and sugar within four hours after you finish a hard workout helps muscles recover faster. The sugar raises insulin levels which helps to drive protein into the muscle cells to promote healing.

Aspirin and nonsteroidals such as ibuprofin may help reduce muscle soreness, but they can delay healing. Stretching and massage make your muscles feel better but there is little evidence that they make you recover faster. Studies of electrical muscle stimulation and cold therapy (ice packs) are so inconsistent that most exercise researchers do not recommend them. On the other hand, virtually everyone agrees that each bout of intense, muscle-damaging exercise followed by reduced intensity exercise makes muscles stronger.


Reports from

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does cold weather increase my risk for health problems and diseases?

Nobody really knows why, but recent research show that sudden drops in environmental temperature are associated with increased risk for disease and death (American Journal of Epidemiology, December 2008).

Researchers at the University of Athens in Greece studied people in 15 European cities. They plotted the average temperature for that day against the number of deaths in that city and showed that a 1?Centigrade decrease in temperature from one day to the next is associated with a 1.72 percent increase in daily heart attack deaths, a 3.30 percent increase in respiratory deaths, and a 1.25 percent increase in stroke deaths.

This study does not tell you to move to warmer climates because those who live in warmer cities are far more susceptible to dying from sudden drops in temperature. This study does suggest that you should avoid chilling and cold weather if you suffer from heart , lung or blood vessel disease.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will lifting weights and staying strong help me to live longer?

Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have shown that it probably will (International Journal of Epidemiology, December 2008). Increased elbow flexion and hand grip and knee extension strength in young adults were all associated with decreased risk for heart attacks and strokes in later life. In this study, taller men had also had reduced risk for heart attacks and strokes. Being overweight markedly increased risk for these diseases.


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June 22nd, 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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