For a complete fitness program, balance aerobic exercise with weight training


January 26, 1993|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer/United Feature Syndicate

The ideal exercise program for most people includes combining two types of exercise. The first is aerobic -- running, fast walking, dancing or cycling -- to make your heart more fit. The second is strength training -- lifting free weights or pushing on strength-training machines -- to make your skeletal muscles stronger.

If you lift weights competitively, you need to focus on lifting weights.

Extensive aerobic exercise may keep you from achieving your maximum gain in strength.

You cannot train for heart fitness and skeletal muscle strength at the same time. To train for heart fitness, you have to exercise continuously for at least 10 minutes. To train for muscle strength, you have to exercise against progressively greater resistance by lifting weights in bursts of activity that last no more than 50 seconds each.

The average person gains most by training for heart fitness three times

a week and for strength training twice a week. You might run on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and lift weights on Tuesday and Thursday.

If you compete in a sport requiring both endurance and strength, such as basketball, you should train for your sport five or six days a week and train for strength two to three times a week. That could mean playing basketball Monday through Saturday and lifting weights on Wednesday and Friday.


Q: My 10-year-old daughter is very athletic. Her grandmother says heavy exercise will make my daughter infertile when she gets older. Will it?

A: In 1965, girls under the age of 14 were not permitted to run in races of more than half a mile because the Amateur Athletic Union feared long-distance running as a girl would prevent a woman from being able to have children later. We now know better.

Girls who train seriously in sports before they reach puberty are just as

fertile, marry as often, become pregnant as often, have the same rate of obstetric complications and have children at the same age as non-athletes do. Girls who train seriously for athletics begin their menstrual periods later than their non-athletic classmates do. For every year that a young girl trains hard before puberty, her menstruation onset will be delayed about five months.

That delay is helpful because it helps these youngsters grow taller. Bones grow only in special growth centers near their ends. When a girl

starts to menstruate, her growth centers close and bone growth stops forever. Delaying puberty through serious exercise keeps the growth centers open longer and allows the girl extra years to grow.

Young female athletes are just as trainable and are no more susceptible to injury than grown women. The major problem with hard athletic training for children -- girls and boys -- is psychological. A tough coach or pushy parent can sour any

See FITNESS, 5D, Col. 1 FITNESS, from 4D

child on sports. In one study, nearly 90 percent of young female primary school cross-country runners did not go on to compete in high school.

Q: What's the latest scientific news on coffee and health?

A: Drinking fewer than six cups of coffee a day will not harm most people. In fact, a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that giving up coffee can also be bad for you.

Half of regular coffee drinkers develop headaches when they switch to other drinks. They are more anx

ious, tire easily, take other drugs and are less coordinated. These symptoms occur because the coffee they have been drinking contains caffeine and is habit-forming.

People most likely to develop caffeine withdrawal symptoms are those who have addictive personalities. They turn to other medications when they can't get caffeine. Smokers should not take habit-forming tranquilizers when they try to stop smoking. It will only make them dependent on something else.

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

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