Exercise and Fitness

What does pulmonary rehabilitation involve?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor has recommended pulmonary rehabilitation for my COPD. What will this involve?

DEAR READER: COPD stands for "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease." This group of disorders damages the lungs and makes it increasingly difficult to breathe. Common symptoms include a mucus-producing cough, breathlessness, rapid breathing, wheezing, tightness in the chest and fatigue.

Is it safe for me to ride a stationary bike if I have sciatica?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have sciatica. Is it safe for me to ride a stationary bike for exercise?

DEAR READER: Sciatica is persistent pain felt along the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs from the lower back, down through the buttock and into the lower leg. Pain results when this nerve is compressed or injured. It most commonly results from inflammation, bone chips caused by arthritis, or a herniated ("slipped") disk in the lower spine.

I strained my hip flexor — how can I relieve the pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've strained a muscle where my hip meets my pelvis. What can I do to relieve the discomfort?

DEAR READER: It sounds like you've strained your hip flexor. That's a group of muscles that runs from your lower back to the front of your thigh. These muscles help flex your hip when you lift your leg to the front. A hip flexor strain can lead to pain where your thigh meets your pelvis, as well as pain or pinching when you pull your knee to your chest or when you climb stairs.

What are different exercise combinations for a good workout?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You've written that a complete exercise program involves a combination of activities. Can you discuss these exercises? How often should I do them?

DEAR READER: All-around fitness calls for a combination of aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance exercises. Let's start with aerobic activities, which are great for burning calories and paring down unwanted fat. These activities -- think of walking, biking, running and swimming -- push large muscles to repeatedly contract and relax.

How does regular exercise help prevent memory loss?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm in my late 60s. I've read that regular exercise helps prevent memory loss. I find that hard to believe. How does it do that? And how much exercise do I need to reap this benefit?

DEAR READER: It's easy to understand why regular exercise would be good for your bones, muscles, lungs and heart. Regularly challenging those organs would make them stronger.

What are some ankle-strengthening exercises?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have weak ankles, and as a result, I have frequent ankle sprains. Can you suggest some ankle-strengthening exercises?

DEAR READER: Our ankles are workhorses and take a lot of abuse. They must bear the full weight of our bodies, yet stay nimble and flexible through every step and jump. It's amazing they work as well as they do. As is true with every weight-bearing joint in our bodies, the muscles that affect the movement of the joint are the joint's best friends. I learned this the hard way. I badly injured my right quadriceps muscle playing basketball when I was in my 20s.

How can I strengthen my core muscles?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'd like to strengthen my core. Can you describe some exercises to start? Will I need any special equipment?

DEAR READER: Your "core" muscles include your abdominal, back, side, pelvic and buttock muscles. Building a strong, flexible core will improve your athletic performance, enhance your balance and stability, and make everyday acts such as bending, turning and reaching easier.

How can I exercise with arthritis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have arthritis, which makes it difficult for me to get up and around. But I'd still like to exercise regularly. Any suggestions?

DEAR READER: Many of my patients with arthritis have the same question. They want to exercise regularly, but they have a medical condition that interferes with their mobility. Or their joints are so sore and stiff from arthritis that they have difficulty getting around. I'll tell you what I tell them: The more you move, the more your ability to exercise will grow.

Can I exercise without getting off my couch?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a couch potato. Can I exercise without getting off my couch?

DEAR READER: Every month the evidence grows stronger: The more time you spend sitting, the greater your risk of developing various serious illnesses. Most of our ancestors -- going back thousands of years -- were a lot more physically active than most of us are today. They had to be: Their survival depended on it.

What should I know before I start strength training?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'd like to start strength training, but I have lots of questions. What should I know before I begin?

DEAR READER: Strength-training exercises are those that force your muscles to strain against an opposing force, like a dumbbell or elasticized band. There's a lot you need to know before you begin. I'll answer several common questions to help get you on your way. Below you'll find several more strength-training tips: