To Stretch Or Not To Stretch?
That is the question. Once considered the best way to prevent injury, stretching may be out of vogue among elite athletes. Six-time Ironman Triathlon champ Mark Allen doesn't bother. Nor does distance trainer Stu Mittleman, who has jogged about 750,000 miles in his 46 years without a serious injury. "Stretching a cold muscle is one of the best ways I know to hurt yourself," he says. Exactly. You must warm up your muscles before you stretch.
Ride the exercise bike, then take a hot shower. The time to get maximum benefit from stretching-- and avoid popped muscles and tendons--is after you have exercised. Still, there can be some benefit to pre-workout stretching. David Pearson, associate professor of physical education at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, points out that, done correctly, the right warm-up can increase blood circulation, lengthen muscles and allow a better range of motion.
Tread On Me
If you can have just one cardiovascular machine in your home, make it a treadmill. According to a 1996 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "the treadmill is the optimal indoor exercise machine for enhancing energy expenditure." The study compared the heart rates of people who exercised on six different machines: treadmill, stair-stepper, rower, cycle ergometer, Airdyne cycle and cross-country skier. Unfortunately, too many people buy inexpensive models that are underpowered, uncomfortable and flimsy. According to Richard Miller, the owner of the Gym Source (which sells equipment to health clubs), "There are two kinds of treadmills--quality and garbage. You can't buy a decent one for much under $1500." Miller recommends using a machine that weighs at least as much as you do, with a large deck, steel frame and a good warranty. If your deterrent to exercise is boredom, invest in the Widestride Duo 48 (see photo above). You can run with a pal or your dog.
Why Die Of Embarrassment?
Colorectal cancer is the nation's number two cancer killer-- 1000 people die from it every week. Early detection raises the survival rate to 85 percent, but symptoms often go undetected because testing can be invasive, inconvenient or embarrassing. Now there's a clean, fast home test called Colocare. You simply drop a test pad into the toilet bowl and see if it turns blue (indicating blood in the stool). The product is FDA-cleared, inexpensive (about $7) and accurate. Buy it at leading drugstores, or call 800-927-7776.
New Year's Resolution
If you're going to imbibe, the best way to avoid a hangover is to drink premium liquors. This from New Age medic Dr. Andrew Weil. "Whenever possible, choose quality brands," exhorts Dr. Weil in Your Top Health Concerns. As we've always said, quality counts.
Don't Bet On It
Why talk about your problems when a pill can take care of them just as nicely? Psychiatrists now have a pill to cure compulsive gambling--they say. An eight-week study took 19 relapsed Gamblers Anonymous members, gave them a drug used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and monitored their behavior. Half dropped out of the study but seven of the remaining ten managed to stop gambling-- at least temporarily. One "success story" who used to gamble all night in Atlantic City and shunned the entertainment is apparently reformed: "Now," he admits, "I would be interested in going to watch a show." Uh, maybe longer-term studies are needed.
Q: I lost weight and kept it off with the fen-phen combination. Now that the FDA has banned the drugs I'm having a tough time. How do I lose weight?
A: First, do you need to lose weight? Compare your height and weight against doctors' tables, not models in magazines. Then remember that while fad diets come and go, one truth remains: To lose weight you must eat right and exercise. You can still have the occasional T-bone and pint of Häagen-Dazs--the trick is to eat them less often. Don't go from bacon to carrot sticks overnight. Give your senses and appetite time to reorient. Gradually introduce healthful low-fat foods. Switch from daily ice cream to low-fat frozen yogurt and then taper to a pint a week. Avoid prepared foods, often high in fat and salt. Cook for yourself and start paying attention to labels. Check your liquor consumption, a big source of calories. Set realistic weight-loss goals, as little as a pound a week. And don't sneak up to Canada for your fen-phen. The stuff isn't safe.