Dieting Without Exercise Does Not Work

A new study from Israel shows us once again that dieting without exercise does not work. The participants took off only six to 10 pounds in two years. No matter what diet they were on, most regained some of the weight they lost in the early months by the end of the study (New England Journal of Medicine, July 17, 2008). It didn't make any difference whether the overweight person was on a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet, or the healthful Mediterranean-type diet that stresses fruits, vegetables, whole grains beans, seeds, nuts and seafood. However, their small weight loss did result in improved cholesterol and blood pressure readings.

If you really want to lose weight for good, you have to exercise. Appetite is controlled in a part of your brain called hypothalamus. If you try to lose weight just by eating less food, your hypothalamus makes you miserable when you see tasty food and know that you shouldn't eat it. If you exercise, you will eat more, but you will not increase your intake of food to equal the extra calories that you burn when you exercise. After you have been exercising for a few months, your muscles will be stronger, you will feel and sleep better and you can actually start to enjoy your new activity. Then you are set for a life-long pattern of burning up the calories you take in.

Unfortunately, the majority of older people who start exercise programs drop out in the first six weeks. People are more likely to stay in an exercise program if they have company and find a sport that is fun for them. The best success comes when a husband and wife exercise together. You can also increase you chances of sticking to an exercise program by having a personal trainer, going to regular exercise classes, or joining an exercise group that is also a social club, such as Road Runners, a bicycle club or a square dancing society.

Lifestyles Determine Who Lives Longest

According to a new National Geographic book, The Blue Zones, people live longer in the Barbagia region of Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California (a community of Seventh-Day Adventists); and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. The lessons drawn from these cultures are the same as those I've preached to you for the last thirty years: eat more vegetables, exercise, minimize stress, don't be overweight, and avoid smoking. Your odds also increase if you are married, live in a rural area and are a woman.

In this 1960's, people in the Georgian Republic in Russia, Abkhazians in Pakistan and the Vilcabambas in Ecuador were reported to live long lives, but it turned out that they were among the world's greatest liars, rather than the world's oldest people. The centenarians cited in The Blue Zone have documented birth certificates.

A new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine (March 2008) found that people who exercise regularly live 12 years longer than non-exercisers, no matter where they live.

Progress report on our training program

Several of you have asked about our training progress since I retired from my radio show and full-time medical practice. Diana and I are a 66-year-old woman and a 73-year-old man who want to ride a tandem bicycle faster than any one else in our age group. We know that training for sports requires stressing and recovering. On one day, we take a hard workout in which we ride as fast as we can, feel sore the next morning, and then go slow for as many days as it takes for the soreness to leave our muscles.

Since we often go to rallies on weekends, we usually ride very fast on Saturday and Sunday. I feel so sore on Monday that I take the day off, and then go slowly for the next four days because it takes that long for my muscles to recover. So we are doing two hard days, followed by a day off, then four recovery days and repeat the cycle. I must tell you that training depends on how you feel, so our schedules vary from week to week, depending on how sore or tired we are. There are days when we plan to ride hard, but have to take an extra easy day or even a day off, or we can expect to become injured.

It took many years for us to get up to schedule we do now. Diana had never exercised hard until she was in her late forties, so she has built up gradually over the last 17 years. She has never had a wear-and-tear injury from riding too much, but she has had three serious injuries from crashes. On the other hand, I have spent my lifetime trying to exercise hard all the time and have paid with repeated, persistent wear-and-tear injuries. Until recently, I just refused to take days off.

Last Saturday we raced 62 miles over a hilly course almost as fast as we could, holding back a little because we knew that we had to ride fast the next day also. On Sunday we raced 45 miles. On Monday, my legs were so sore that I took the day off. On Tuesday, my legs were still sore so we rode 20 slow miles. On Wednesday, my legs were still tired so we rode 43 miles, mostly easy with slight pickups when other riders came along. On Thursday, we rode 38 miles and on Friday, 46 miles. That amounts to 253 miles for the week with one day off. We are doing so many miles now that I try to stay off my feet when I'm not riding, because I know that walking and standing delay muscle recovery from hard exercise. We have several wonderful cycling trips planned this summer and will post some pictures soon.

Football players more likely to become diabetic

People who have huge muscles usually have high levels of insulin because insulin causes muscles to grow. Exercise makes muscles so sensitive to insulin that it prevents blood sugar levels from rising too high. However, when these people stop exercising, their muscles are not as sensitive to insulin and blood sugar levels rise, this causes insulin levels to go even higher, so they eat more and gain weight.

A study from Mt. Sinai Medical Center shows that National Football League linemen are more than twice as likely as other Americans to develop diabetes in later life. More than 60 percent of NFL linemen become diabetic, compared to only 30 percent for the average American (The American Journal of Cardiology, May 2008).

People who have large muscles when they are young need to continue to exercise for the rest of their lives. If they reduce the amount of exercise or stop exercising for any reason, they must do everything in their power to protect themselves from gaining weight. Before insulin can do its job of driving insulin into cells, it must first attach to special insulin receptors on the surface of cells. Extra fat in the body prevents these receptors from responding to insulin, so blood sugar levels rise even higher. To compensate for this, insulin levels rise higher also, which sets the person up for diabetes and premature death.

Caffeine Boosts Hot Weather Performance

A study from Toledo, Spain shows that giving caffeine to dehydrated bicycle racers helps them ride faster, longer and with more power in hot weather (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, July 2008). When combined with water and carbohydrates, caffeine ingestion increases the force of muscular contractions which helps them to pedal with more power. Almost all professional bicycle riders take caffeine is some form because they know it helps them to ride faster.

Another recent study from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign shows that caffeine helps to reduce muscle pain in riders pedaling as hard and as long as they can (International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, May 2008). Other studies have shown that caffeine is a diuretic only when a person is at rest, not during exercise.

These reported benefits of caffeine for cyclists can be expected to apply to other sports as well. However, people with heart damage should be cautious about taking caffeine before exercising. It is a stimulant and may increase risk of irregular heart beats. More

Causes and Treatment of Heatstroke

A recent report from South Africa shows that the most likely cause of death during hot weather sports events is heat stroke, when the body temperature rises so high that it cooks the brain (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, July 2008). The treatment for a person who collapses from heat stroke is immediate immersion in cold water.

An excessive rise in body temperature is caused either by producing too much heat or by inability to dissipate the extra heat. When you exercise, almost 80 percent of the energy that is used to drive your muscles is lost as heat. That means that the harder you exercise, the more heat you produce. But heat stroke is more likely to be caused by inability to get rid of heat than by producing too much heat. Stimulants such as amphetamines, caffeine or ecstacy increase the likelihood of heatstroke.

Those most likely to suffer heat stroke are those who have arteriosclerosis, are overweight or are in poor shape. An athlete or exerciser who passes out from overheating should be immersed in cold water immediately to prevent brain and multiple organ damage. However, a heart attack can also cause a person to pass out and this should not be treated with cold water immersion.

If you exercise in the heat and start to feel dizzy, stop exercising because your temperature could be rising too high. When your temperature starts to rise, your muscles start to burn. As your temperature rises further, you become short of breath and the air you breathe feels like it is coming from a hot furnace. Stop exercising and cool off because if your temperature continues to rise, you will develop brain symptoms such as headache, blurred vision, and ringing in your ears. If you press on further, you can pass out and die. More

Improving a Child's Running Form

When children look very awkward when they run, they usually have an imbalance in their muscles, or muscle or nerve damage. Telling an awkward child to change his form won't help and will probably just make him self-conscious. The child should first be evaluated by a physician for conditions that affect nerves and muscles. If none is found, the coach should have the child repeat the running motions over and over until the brain can coordinate the body's motions about his center of gravity. The faster he runs, the more likely he will be to acquire a running form that is efficient and does not waste energy with unnecessary side movements.

Your center of gravity is the spot in your body with equal weight in front and in back. Every motion you make is aimed at keeping your body balanced around your center of gravity. When you move one part of your body forward, you move another backward to keep you from falling. When you move your left leg forward, you automatically move your right arm forward and your left arm backward. People who don't do this look funny when they run. You can't talk a person into efficient running form and you cannot think yourself into good running form. To correct poor running form, go out and run every day and when you are in good shape, start running short interval sprints as fast as you can. How to run faster