Exercise and Fitness

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:

I want to start exercising regularly– Should I join a gym?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I want to start exercising regularly. Should I join a gym?

DEAR READER: You don't need a gym in order to exercise regularly. Your body offers the cheapest equipment available. And the money you save by not paying for a gym membership might be put to good use elsewhere, whether that means monthly bills or tennis lessons. But joining a gym has its benefits, too.

How does exercise prevent cardiovascular disease?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've heard it many times: Regular exercise helps prevent cardiovascular disease. But how does it do that?

DEAR READER: First, let's define terms, to be sure we're all on the same page. "Cardiovascular disease" (CVD) is a catch-all term. It includes heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure (hypertension), atherosclerosis and heart failure. Regular (not just occasional) exercise improves cardiovascular health in a number of ways:

How important is cardiac rehab after a heart attack?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My father recently had a heart attack. His doctor recommended cardiac rehab, but he refuses to go because he "already has a gym membership." How important is cardiac rehab?

DEAR READER: Cardiac rehabilitation is a safe, proven way to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Dr. Daniel Forman, director of the exercise testing lab at Brigham and Women's Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, feels strongly about the subject. He says that for reducing deaths and increasing quality of life, cardiac rehab exceeds any pill or procedure.

Will exercising really boost my energy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: When I'm tired, the last thing I want to do is exercise. But my wife says that exercising will actually boost my energy. Is she right?

DEAR READER: Listen to your wife. It may sound strange, but in order to get more energy, you have to do the very thing you don't feel you have enough energy to do: exercise. There are at least four ways that regular exercise makes you feel more energetic.

What are exercises that will strengthen my lower back?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My lower back has been giving me trouble. Could you describe some exercises to strengthen it?

DEAR READER: If misery loves company, you'll be glad to hear that there are many people who have back problems. One large survey conducted by the government found that about one out of every four adults had suffered from back pain lasting at least a whole day in the previous three months.

Should I take a weight-loss drug to help me lose weight?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Should I take a weight-loss drug to help me lose weight?

DEAR READER: If you are only mildly overweight or just want to lose a few pounds to improve your appearance, then weight-loss drugs are not for you. On the other hand, if your health is at risk and you haven't been able to lose weight through diet and exercise, drug therapy may increase your chance of success.

What do I need to know before I start core exercises?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'd like to start doing some core exercises. What do I need to know before I start?

DEAR READER: Core exercises should be a part of everyone's exercise routine. Committing to core work will improve your posture whether you're sitting, standing or moving. Try to do a variety of exercises that target all the core muscles.

Are there any other treatment options for Parkinson’s Disease?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been taking levodopa for years to treat my Parkinson's disease. Lately, though, it hasn't been as effective. Are there any other treatment options?

DEAR READER: It is quite common for the effectiveness of levodopa to change over time. Fortunately, there are other treatments available. Some are very high-tech, reflecting the latest scientific knowledge. Others are very low-tech, reflecting the wisdom of the past.