If you stretch after you work out, will it stop muscle soreness from working out?

Sally,

Houston, Texas

Sally, researchers at the University of Texas at Tyler found that stretching did not prevent muscle soreness after a workout. They asked non-athletic people to exercise 20 minutes. Two thirds were asked to stretch. Each person was then asked to rate how sore his or her muscles were over the next three days. The amount of soreness was the same for both groups. The researchers also took a blood sample from each person to see if the level of serum creatinine kinase, which is an indicator of muscle damage, had risen. Stretching had no affect on the levels.

While stretching will not stop soreness, it is important for flexibility. Doing a warm-up before you stretch ensures that the muscles have dilated and have increased circulation, which makes it easier to stretch the muscles and lowers your chances of injury while doing so?

When you exercise, the rise in body temperature and blood flow causes your muscle size to increase between 10 and 20 percent. If you stretch your muscles before you warm up you risk pulling or tearing a muscle. Research in the area of exercise science and physiology has proven that you should warm up before you stretch. This will also release hormones, which help increase the elasticity of your muscles. To warm up before you stretch, you can do a slow jog, brisk walk, jump rope or do jumping jacks for about five minutes. To stretch your muscles, hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. If you can only do five seconds fine, start there and increase your time. Never bounce or jerk when you stretch, it should be slow and sustained.

Ex-Smokers and Caffeine

I just stopped smoking and I feel great. My problem is caffeine; I’m drinking more coffee. Will this new habit be as bad as smoking?

Terry,

Tampa, Fla.

Cigarette smokers metabolize caffeine more rapidly than nonsmokers. This means that smokers have to drink more coffee to get the same level of caffeine in their blood. It’s this difference that can cause problems for people who have just quit smoking.

Researchers in San Francisco found that when ex-smokers drank their usual amount of coffee, the levels of caffeine in their blood rose 250 percent over previous levels because they were metabolizing it more slowly. These high levels could cause some ex-smokers to start smoking again. The higher levels of caffeine can make a person jittery, causing an ex-smoker to use a cigarette to calm the nerves.

Here are some tips that will help to quit smoking and stay off the caffeine.

1. Keep a positive attitude. Believe that you can quit.

2. Get rid of all cigarettes and matches and have your teeth cleaned.

3. Change your habits. After a meal, go for a walk. When you want to go out, go to places that prohibit smoking.

4. When the urge hits do something else. Plan several activities that you can do every time you get the urge.

5. Tell others that you’ve quit. They’ll be glad to remind you that you want to stop smoking.

6. Get more information about the hazards of smoking. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with not smoking.  

Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant. It will increase alertness, decrease fatigue, give euphoria, and elevate your mood. The bad effects of caffeine can include sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety and depression. A person can suffer the bad affects from one or two cups of coffee a day.

If you drink more than 250 mg of caffeine a day, which is about two and a half cups, you can suffer from caffeine intoxication. The symptoms include restlessness, nervousness, excitement, excessive urination, insomnia, heartburn, muscle twitching and rambling thought and speech.

There are some withdrawal symptoms when you try to break the caffeine habit. They can include depression, constipation, runny nose, nausea, headaches and a craving for caffeine. To quit, it’s best to gradually reduce your caffeine intake. Try to reduce your daily intake of caffeine by 100mg each week. That is about one cup of coffee. Continue decreasing your consumption until you’re down to a safe level, which is about one cup a day. Your plan should also include relaxation, stress reduction, good nutrition and exercise.

Stretch Marks

I just noticed that I have started to develop stretch marks. Is there anything I can do to get rid of these unsightly marks.”

Sally,

Jacksonville, Fla.

There are no proven ways to remove, cure or change stretch marks completely. Most begin as small tears in the skin. They are usually a result of a rapid weight gain, a big growth spurt, pregnancy or even muscle growth. Knowing this, it would be good to just not get too big too fast. One way to slow growth is to do aerobic exercise to control your body’s fat percentage and growth. The fastest growing tissue is the fat cell. Aerobic workouts will help you burn body fat, if you do 30 minutes or more of continuous movement. It takes your body 20 minutes to switch to the fat-burning stage during a workout. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week. Try to keep your aerobic workout under 60 minutes. This way you won’t overdo it and you’ll decrease your risk of injury due to repetitive stress. Thirty to 45 minutes is ideal, but you may have to start below 10 minutes and increase your workout time gradually. Some examples of aerobic exercise include 30 minutes or more of brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, walking in a pool, aerobic dance and jumping rope. Workouts, which include a lot of, stop and go movements will burn calories but are not considered aerobic. Non-aerobic exercises include karate, volleyball, weight lifting, sprinting, tennis, ballet and gymnastics. If you’re trying to lose weight, aerobic workouts with a proper eating plan will help you see results within a few weeks.

Time for Breakfast

I don’t have time for breakfast. What can I eat in the morning that is quick?

Will,

Newark, Del.

Instead of coffee or skipping breakfast, make a pit stop at your blender before you leave home. Pour in a cup of orange juice and a half-cup of sliced pineapple and a few strawberries. Blend for a few seconds and pour it in a large container you can take with you for the ride. Carry a straw and you can easily sip and drive while you fuel your body with vitamins A and C, potassium and phosphorus. Fruits and fruit juices are an excellent way to wake up and energize your body.

After a small fruit meal, cereals are a great choice. Skip the cereals with fruit and nuts mixed in; they don’t break down well in the stomach when mixed. Also, use soy milk on your cereal instead of milk. You can drink milk, but it’s best to drink it alone. Choose cereals that have less than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving. Also, make sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain such as 100 percent whole wheat, brown rice or corn. If you find sugar listed, it should be the last ingredient. Companies listing sucrose, fructose or maltose should not fool you, they are all sugars. Whole-grain cereals are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Make sure you’re getting the right stuff; read the label.

Fresh Fruit and Fruit Juice

What is the difference between eating fresh fruit and drinking fruit juice? Are dried fruits as nutritious as fresh fruit?

K.C.,

West Oak Lane

Fruit juice is a good alternative to alcohol, imitation fruit-flavored drinks and soda, but eating whole fruit is important too. Ounce for ounce, whole fruit is more filling, has more fiber and contains fewer calories. Studies show that the fiber present in whole fruit helps regulate the breakdown of carbohydrates (starchy foods, grains, rice, vegetables and fruit) better than fruit juice.

Whole fruit causes sugar to enter the bloodstream more slowly than juice, which in turn allows your body to release less insulin. A slower steady release of insulin is important to keep blood sugar levels stable. This will cause your energy level to remain fairly constant, rather than fluctuate wildly, which can cause tiredness, dizziness, emotional instability and a host of other symptoms.

Dried fruit has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to fresh fruit. Because drying reduces water, it concentrates nutrients. As a result, dried fruit is usually high in minerals like copper, iron, potassium, and sometimes beta-carotene. Dried fruit is high in fiber and fat free. On the down side, dried fruits lose most of their vitamin C, and the sugar content becomes more concentrated. Dried fruit may contain as much as 70 percent sugar by weight, which approaches the level of some candies. Sulfites are added to the drying process to preserve color and beta-carotene. Some people, especially asthmatics, are allergic to sulfites. There are sulfite-free dried fruits on the market, so shop around.

Fresh fruit should make up the bulk of your fruit intake. Drink juices and eat dried fruits in moderation.

Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.

For help with drug, alcohol and mental health problems call Sobriety Through Outpatient drug, alcohol and mental health treatment center at (215) 227-STOP. Watch or listen to our recovery media stations everyday at www.stop-recoveryradio.com.

If you have a fitness question or concern you would like addressed write to “Tips to be Fit,” P.O. Box 53443 Philadelphia PA 19105 or vincefaust@gmail.com. Or call (215) 387-3081. If you’ve missed an article of “Tips to be Fit,” go to www.phillytrib.com and search “Tips to be Fit.”

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