It takes 36 minutes a week

FITNESS CLINIC

May 26, 1992|By Gabe Mirkin, M.D. | Gabe Mirkin, M.D.,Contributing Writer

I've heard it over and over again. A patient complains that there is just no time in the day to exercise; life is too jampacked with other priorities.

But if you do it right, all you need is 36 minutes a week to become fit and stay that way. The key is to alternate between intense and easy exercises during your workouts. It's called interval training, and it works.

Fitness means your heart is strong. To strengthen your heart, you have to exercise vigorously enough to raise your pulse rate by at least 20 beats per minute above your resting heart rate.

The more intensely you exercise, the less time is necessary for you to do it. You can become very fit, for example, on three sessions per week, exercising at 100 heartbeats a minute for 30 minutes. If you exercise at 160 heartbeats a minute, though, you may get very fit on workouts that last only 12 minutes.

Unfortunately, intense workouts can make you feel tired before you're able to finish. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have found that you can exercise intensely if you alternate intense and easy exercise during the same session.

Try this: Exercise hard (at approximately 160 heartbeats a minute) for 20 to 30 seconds, then exercise at a more relaxed pace until you feel recovered. Do another 20 to 30 seconds of intense exercise. Continue to alternate these two throughout your workout, which should last 12 minutes. Do this three times a week -- 36 minutes worth -- and you'll be in great shape.

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Q: My sister-in-law recently admitted to me that she and my brother haven't had much of a sex life since he suffered a heart attack six months ago. Should they continue to avoid having sex? Would it be bad for my brother's heart for them to engage in intercourse?

A: One year after a heart attack, the average man makes love only half as often as he did before his heart attack. This drop in frequency is due to a lack of knowledge more than to a lack of capability.

Contrary to popular belief, lovemaking is easy on the heart. It takes the same amount of energy to walk up two flights of stairs as it does to make love.

Researchers at the University of Toronto discovered that 36 percent of heart-attack victims experienced chest pain while riding a bicycle. Fewer than 12 percent reported chest pain during lovemaking.

One of the best ways for a recovering heart-attack victim to prevent chest pain during lovemaking is to start a program of supervised, controlled exercise. In one study, a group of men who developed chest pain during lovemaking were started on an exercise program. After 12 weeks, 67 percent could make love without feeling any chest pain.

Interestingly, though, a male heart-attack victim should make certain he makes love only to his wife. A study reported in the Japanese Journal of Legal Medicine showed that more than 90 percent of men who died during lovemaking did so while making love to women who were not their wives. Perhaps the added stress of infidelity may have been too much on their hearts

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

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