To be successful at losing weight, you have to exercise regularly


April 23, 1991|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin

The proportion of fat you have in your body has more to do with how much you exercise than with how much you eat.

Believe it or not, thin people who exercise reqularly take in 600 to 800 more calories each day than fat people who don't exercise.

The reason for this is that your body uses the food you eat both as fuel and as the major building block needed to make new cells. Whatever food is left over is stored as fat.

A recent study from Washington University in St. Louis showed that when you begin an exercise program, you take in more food. However, you do not increase the intake enough to equal the energy you expend when working out. As a result, you lose body fat.

To be successful at permanent weight reduction, any weight-loss attempt should include exercise. But, more than 65 percent of people who start an exercise program drop out in the first six weeks, usually because they suffer an injury or push themselves too hard. They don't understand that every period of exercise must be followed by a time of recovery to allow muscles to heal. Knowing this, most avid exercisers allow 48 hours between workouts in the same sport.

If you are trying to lose weight and want to exercise every day, be sure to alternate an upper body workout with a lower body exercise. Walk or jog one day; swim the next. Or, pedal a bicycle one day and row the next. Try to work up to a point where you can exercise for 10 minutes a day.


Q: I've been told that, if I want to run a marathon, I should run 100 miles a week. Is that necessary?

A: Most marathon runners think they need to train by running 60 to 100 miles a week. But, many would see better times by running fewer than 50 miles a week at a faster pace.

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark studied experienced marathoners who were running more than 60 miles a week at a fast pace. Some were told to continue running the same number of miles at the same pace. Others were told to cut their weekly mileage in half, to 30 miles a week. They were to run half their miles at very fast-paced intervals -- multiple repetitions of very fast bursts of 60 to 1,000 meters. Each fast interval was to be followed by slow jogging until the runner could recover and take off for another quick burst. This pattern allowed them to run much faster than they could have by consistently running the same pace.

After 14 weeks of such training, this group increased its maximal ability to take in and use oxygen by more than 7 percent. Its participants also ran faster races. The first group, comprised of those who ran continuously at the same pace, did not improve its race times nor the ability to take in oxygen.

Distance runners can run faster races -- if oxygen can be quickly moved to the muscles via the bloodstream. Anything that helps an athlete carry more oxygen into the muscles will help him run faster. Running very fast in practice sends more oxygen to your muscles, even though you may run fewer miles. However, you shouldn't run intervals more than twice a week.

Q: We heard so much about nerve gas during Operation Desert Storm. How does it work?

A: When exposed to nerve gas, a person develops pinpoint pupils, a runny nose and eyes, severe shortness of breath, profuse sweating, muscle twitches, a slow heart rate and low blood pressure. These symptoms are followed by confusion, lack of coordination, slurred speech and convulsions. Death occurs when the breathing muscles become paralyzed.

Poison gas can pass through ordinary clothing, so the troops in the gulf were issued charcoal-lined suits with masks. Unfortunately, the suits are so hot that they can cause heat stroke. Since the gas can be absorbed through the eyes, the masks must cover the entire face, not just the nose and mouth.

U.S. soldiers were also issued pyridostigmine pills to take prior to exposure to nerve gas, to help protect them from the poison. In addition, they were equipped with atropine, to be injected once they were exposed to the gas. If exposed, they would also receive anticonvulsants, such as Valium.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

United Feature Syndicate

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.