Safe exercise with muscle, joint ailments


December 17, 1991|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,United Feature Syndicate

People with arthritis, nerve diseases such as multiple sclerosis and muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy often feel terrible pain when they exercise. They are sore for a long time afterward and need more time to recover. Because of this, they often are warned not to exercise at all.

But that's terrible advice. These people have even more need to exercise than healthy people. Inactivity will make their muscles so weak they cannot support normal activities such as walking. Inactivity will also make their bones so weak they turn to chalk and break.

It is normal to feel weak and tired after a vigorous workout. All top athletes design their training to allow for post-exercise recovery. They train hard one day and easy the next.

People with muscle, joint or nerve damage need extra time to recover from exercise. Instead of the usual 48-hour recovery period, they can require anywhere from three to seven days to recover.

The safest program for these individuals is one in which they alternate walking, swimming and pedaling a stationary bicycle. And, they should walk one day until there is the slightest bit of muscle heaviness or pain and then, two days later, pedal or swim until there's discomfort. Then, they should repeat the walking two days after that. Rest periods may have to be longer.


Q: What is the best way to use exercise and diet to lose weight?

A: Recent research shows that how fat you are is determined more by how much you exercise than by how much you eat. Research also has discovered:

* Low-calorie diets do not help you lose weight permanently. No matter how much you lose initially, you are not likely to stick with a low-cal plan that will make you feel hungry for the rest of your life.

* Eating several small meals each day is less fattening than eating the same amount of food in one or two meals.

* The food you eat at night is more fattening than what you eat in the morning because being active after eating causes fewer calories to be turned to fat.

Thus, to lose fat, go on a low-fat diet (less than 20 grams of fat each day). Nibble rather than gorge. Exercise after your evening meal. Then, exercise once or twice a week.

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

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