Steps that a former smoker can take to stay healthy

Q and A

November 04, 2005|By GAILOR LARGE | GAILOR LARGE,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Nov. 20 will be one year since I stopped smoking, after four decades of two packs a day. All the tests say I'm healthy now - amazing! Anything you can recommend to stay that way? I'm 54 years old and 6 foot 1 and weigh 210 pounds.

"Congratulations. That is a real accomplishment," says Dr. Stephen Pollock, chief of cardiology at St. Joseph Medical Center. Quitting, particularly when you were smoking two packs a day for so long, is a huge feat. Now that you've overcome this hurdle, the next step is to exercise regularly and stick to a balanced diet.

Pollock recommends losing about 20 pounds, depending on your body frame. "But before starting an exercise program," he says, "I would recommend a cardiology evaluation to exclude occult coronary artery disease, even if you are asymptomatic." Translation: Even if you feel great, visit a cardiologist to rule out hidden heart problems before hitting the gym.

For every pound of muscle I build, how many extra calories will my body burn each day?

Studies have shown that as you build muscle, your resting metabolic rate, or the number of calories your body burns at rest, increases. Ever wonder why super fit athletes can eat like bottomless pits and still look great? Not only are they blasting calories from heavy exercise, but they've built up considerable muscle mass so that they're particularly efficient at burning those calories.

Experts estimate that the average person burns approximately 35-50 extra calories daily for every pound of muscle he or she gains. This is a rough estimate, though, and can vary significantly depending on the individual.

With daylight-saving time ending, I'm worried about maintaining my after-work runs. I don't belong to a gym anymore, so I rely on the outdoors, and I have no time in the mornings because I'm getting the kids dressed, fed and off to school. What do you suggest?

As your surroundings change this time of year - less light, colder weather - so should your routine. Be a savvy runner by following these rules for fall outings:

Run with a buddy.

Wear bright, reflective clothing, and layer.

Bring your mobile phone.

Run in busy and well-lit neighborhoods.

If you're running in the road, keep to the left.

Mix up your routes each day.

Always tell someone where you'll be.

Even if you can't run in the daylight anymore, try to run at dusk rather than in the dark.

Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun.com, or online at baltimoresun.com/healthscience, or in writing to The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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