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Human beings were designed to move…walk, run, climb, lift, hunt, and gather. Contemporary man has suffered greatly from a technologically driven inactive and sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity is associated with many health problems; obesity, adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure to name a few. The problems associated with lack of movement are many:

Constipation

The more you move your body, the more you colon moves!  A regular and consistent exercise and activity regime, results in a more consistent bowel schedule, especially with age. Healthy muscle tone in your abdominal muscles and diaphragm is also the key to moving waste through your digestive tract.

Stiff Joints

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and many inflammatory or auto-immune diseases can cause achy and stiff joints. However, even healthy joints can also stiffen when you don’t use them enough. Put them to work so they don't get tight and cause pain.

Shortness of Breath

All muscles get weak from lack of use, including the muscles that help your lungs expand and contract as you breathe if you don’t work them out regularly. The less exercise or activity you do, the more you experience shortness of breath, even during easy daily tasks.

Depression or Moody

Physical problems are not the only complication of inactivity. A lack of movement can also increase feelings of anxiety and depression. Aerobic exercises like walking, biking, swimming, or running, have been proven to stimulate endorphins to boost and steady your mood, and even improve your self-esteem.

Lack of Energy

Many studies have found that regular movement improves energy. Exercise helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. When you sit or are inactive, tissues are not getting the same amount of fuel they need to keep you going.

Slow Metabolism

Movement stimulates your metabolism. Hyperactive people burn more calories…just by fidgeting! Even if you are not hyperactive, the more active you are, the more calories you burn each time you move.

Difficulty Sleeping

One of the first recommendations sleep doctors make to their patients suffering from insomnia is exercise. When you keep a regular exercise routine, you fall asleep faster, and you sleep deeper once you drift off.

Brain Fog

Regular exercise tells your body to make more chemicals called growth factors. They boost blood vessel production in your brain. The more blood that gets to your brain, the better you can think, remember, and make decisions.

High Blood Pressure

Spending most of your time sitting raises your risk of heart disease, in great part due to the fact that partly you’re more likely to have high blood pressure. This is a big risk factor for heart issues like coronary artery disease and heart attack.

High Blood Glucose

When physical activity is a regular part of your life, your body has an easier time keeping your blood glucose under control. Exercise can stabilize blood sugar levels and keep you out of the type 2 diabetes danger zone.

Lower Back Pain

When your core muscles are weak from lack of use, they can’t support your back the way they should. This makes it much easier to tweak your back muscles during everyday movements like standing or reaching. Pilates, yoga, and other exercises that use stretching are good for building a stronger back. Schedule an appointment with a good orthopedic and sports PT.

Hunger Pains … “Hangry”

Logically, one might think that you’d be hungry more often if you exercised more, but the opposite is usually true. Aerobic exercise like biking, swimming, walking, and running can actually decrease your appetite because it changes the levels of certain “hunger hormones” in your body.

Sick Often

Studies show the more moderate activity you get, the lower your chance of catching a cold or other germs. When you make exercise a habit, your immune system gets stronger.

Dull and Pasty Skin

If your skin looks duller than usual, a lack of movement may be to blame. Some studies show that moderate exercise boosts your circulation and your immune system, which helps your skin keep that youthful glow.

SOURCE: WebMD

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Most of us are all too familiar with someone in our family or workplace that can be described as a hyperactive or high energy person. I am sure members of my family or coworkers in my office are thinking that this statement is a self-description. Consequently, based on doctor’s advice, it is best to limit me to one cup of coffee or pay the price when I become a hyperactive taskmaster. Now, after further research on this topic, I have concluded that it may be that I may be hyperactive by nature, regardless of my caffeine intake. While many of you may find the following facts hard to believe, and the effects of it may vary for everyone, the facts are still the facts.

Caffeine

Approximately 80% of the world's population consumes caffeine on a daily basis. While research is constantly being done on health benefits and side-effects of it, great controversy and misconception persists. The purpose of this column will be to discuss the “current wisdom” and present the truth about it.

Caffeine is completely absorbed within 30 to 45 minutes of ingestion and its effects linger for about three hours. Eventually it is excreted and there is no accumulation in the body. It has been shown to affect mood, stamina, the blood vessels in the brain, as well as stomach and intestinal activity. However, for most people, when used in moderation (200 to 300mg or 2-3 cups), caffeine use is perfectly safe and may offer some health benefits.

Sources of Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural substance found in certain leaves, seeds, and fruits of over 60 plants worldwide. In our culture, the most common sources in our diet are coffee, tea leaves, cocoa beans, cola, and energy drinks. It can also be produced synthetically and added to food, beverages, supplements, and medications. Consumption of 130 to 300 mg of it per day is considered minimal to moderate. Amounts exceeding 500 mg are moderate to heavy and more than 1000 mg/day is excessive. The average daily consumption among Americans is about 280 mg/day and 20% to 30% consume more than 600 mg/day. It's contents in some of the more popular forms are:

THE TRUTH

Caffeine is Not Addictive

Caffeine can be habit-forming, but it is not addictive. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse states that it is a mild stimulant but does not have the qualities of addictive stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines. However, sudden abstinence from caffeine can produce mild withdrawal symptoms such as headache, restlessness, and irritability. Therefore, it is recommended to slowly wean off it over a week or two to lessen these symptoms.

The need to eliminate caffeine from your diet is not supported in the literature. In fact, studies show that moderate use can enhance your mood and improve focus and alertness. The American Dietetic Association suggests limiting intake to 200mg to 300mg (2- 3 cups of coffee) per day.

Caffeine Does Not Necessarily Cause Dehydration

While caffeine is a diuretic, its effects are very mild. However, like all diuretics, it will cause you to urinate more often and therefore, lose fluids. The more fluids you lose, the greater the chance for dehydration, especially if you are at risk due to health issues. Also, long distance runners and athletes performing in conditions of extreme heat must use caution. Minimal to moderate intake with generous use of water and sports drinks should suffice.

Caffeine Does Not Contribute to Heart Disease

A study conducted at the University of Madrid of more than 126,000 people found that women who drank 2-3 cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 25% lower risk of heart disease. Also, a 33-yearlong study of more than 1,000 participants at Johns Hopkins University found that coffee had no significant effect on the risk of hypertension. Moderation seemed to be the key component in these studies. Interestingly, caffeinated colas did increase the risk of hypertension; however, it was believed to be due to the high amounts of sugars and other ingredients in the drink.

However, for many reasons, physicians tell their cardiac patients, especially those with high blood pressure or abnormal heart rhythms, to avoid it. This matter should be discussed in more detail with your physician before using caffeine. Tea, especially black and green, contains a much smaller amount of caffeine than coffee, is often recommended for the health benefits of antioxidants.

Caffeine Does Not Cause Hyperactivity in Children

While studies show that moderate amounts (40 – 200mg) in children does not make them hyperactive, others demonstrate that a 12 oz can of cola with only 35 mg of caffeine makes them bounce off the walls. It has been concluded that it is the sugar and other ingredients in the soda that makes them hyperactive. In fact, some studies show that small amounts of it can work like Ritalin and improves focus in children with attention disorders.

Caffeine Does Not Cause Bone Loss

Caffeine has been shown to increase calcium excretion when taken in large amounts. Unless a child drinks caffeinated coffee in place of milk, there is no scientific evidence that bone loss will occur. When it is used in moderation, no evidence of bone loss exists.

Caffeine Does Not Cause Fibrocystic Breast Disease

There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that caffeine causes fibrocystic breast disease or breast cancer. Confusion may lie with the fact that it is associated with increased breast pain during monthly hormonal changes. If so, women are well advised to reduce the intake of caffeine during this time.

Source: www.LifeScript.com

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Spring is here! So, too, is allergy season and spring sports! It seems this every year at this time a young little league baseball player wheezes as they cross home plate and desperately tries to catch their breath. Players, coaches, umpires, parents watch in dismay, deciding whether they need to call an ambulance. Minutes later the player recovers from this scary situation…until the next time. Could this be an example of exercised-induced asthma (EIA)?

What is EIA?

Dr. Gregory Cali, a local pulmonologist, (lung doctor) was gracious enough to participate in an interview about this problem…exercise-induced asthma (EIA). The topic was chosen in response to an email question from a concerned mother of an athlete with asthma.  Dr. Cali informed me that the first thing to know about exercise induced asthma (EIA) is that EIA is not a distinct disease in itself-but is one manifestation or presentation of asthma. Putting it simply, EIA occurs in patients who have develop narrowing of the bronchial tubes ( bronchoconstriction) when they exercise.  Some experts would rather we use the phrase exercise induced bronchoconstriction which is what happens when someone has an asthma attack.  This bronchoconstriction occurs because of spasm of the tiny muscles of the airways, plugging of the airways with thick mucous, and swelling or edema of the cells lining the airways. 

In fact, it is inflammation of the airways, mostly due to allergies, that is at the root of most cases of asthma. This inflammation causes the bronchial tubes to become over-reactive-and predisposed to narrowing- when exposed to certain triggers.  Exercise is one of those triggers in susceptible people. The patient with EIA complains of chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath when exercising.  Some patients only experience coughing with exercise.  Symptoms are usually worse in cold, dry air. This is believed to be due to the drying and cooling of the airways, which occurs with exercise, especially if the patient opens his or her mouth while exercising.  Nasal breathing is much better at warming and humidifying air and may help to reduce EIA.  

Diagnosing EIA

Dr. Cali feels that the most important point about EIA is to make sure a specific diagnosis is made.  It is difficult at times to differentiate asthma from the normal breathlessness, which occurs with exercise.  The feature of EIA that distinguishes it from normal breathing, or being "out of shape" is the fact that EIA is ALWAYS associated with a decrease in airflow.  This can be measured with either a peak flow meter or a spirometer.  It is also important that a specific diagnosis be made so that a person will not be labeled as asthmatic when they may be "normal" or have other conditions such as heart problems or anemia. 

Dr. Cali also recommends before a person is labeled asthmatic, they have spirometric testing.  An improvement in airflow after inhaling. A bronchodilator is an important indicator of asthma.  Sometimes a bronchial challenge test is needed to diagnose asthma.  In this test, the subject breathes in a known bronchoconstrictor in small quantities and the response is noted.  Patients with asthma almost always respond to the inhaled agent by a reduction in airflow. 

PREVENTION AND MANAGEMENT OF EIA

Inform Coaches – If coaches are made aware, than they can be prepared for the onset of EIA. Provide emergency contacts and medications with instructions, such as inhalers, should be available.

Warm and Moisten Air - Whatever the patient can do to warm and moisten the inhaled air can help prevent EIA.  Nose breathing during exercise or wearing a loose covering over the mouth in cold weather may help.  Sometimes, in severe cases, switching to an indoor sport like swimming may be necessary.

Start Out Slowly - It is important to start out slowly and warm up first before exercising at full tilt. Slowly jog around the track or field before practice or a game to prepare your lungs for full-speed.

Medications – are often necessary.  Quick- acting bronchodilators like Albuterol, used 15-20 minutes before planned exercise, is recommended.  This can be repeated once more during the exercise, but if tightness or wheezing occurs, the exercise should be stopped. Many patients with asthma require preventative treatment with anti-inflammatory medications.  Inhaled steroids and/or leukotriene inhibitors may have to be added if the asthma is not controlled with Albuterol alone.  In fact, some patients with asthma who are overly reliant on quick acting bronchodilator medications can get into serious trouble if they do not use inhaled steroids. Be sure to communicate your needs with your coaches.

Play Smart - In conclusion, people with asthma should not shy away from exercise.  With proper precautions, people with asthma should be able to participate in all kinds of sports activities: baseball, football, soccer, swimming, tennis and running (even a marathon)! The key point is that the asthma needs to be under control and monitored by the patient, parents, coaches and doctor as a team. 

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

Medical Contributor: Gregory Cali, DO, pulmonary specialist, Dunmore, PA

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

In addition to lowering blood pressure, this gentle form of exercise can help maintain strength, balance, flexibility and mental health and is an ideal activity for all ages!

This research was brought to my attention by my friend and mentor from Dalton, Peter Frieder, Chairman,Gentex Corporation and current Board Chair at WVIA. Peter is celebrating his birthday today with a number of years that clearly does not represent his physiological age, in great part due to his dedication to health and wellness. Happy Birthday and thank you!

According to a new study by the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences (CACMS), the ancient martial art practice of Tai Chi is effective in lowering blood pressure as much, if not more, than traditional aerobic exercise. For those with prehypertension or hypertension and are unable to tolerate the repetitive and prolonged weight bearing stresses of running, walking or cycling, these results have tremendous implications. The slow, gentle and controlled movements and positions of Tai Chi coupled with controlled breathing and meditation may be a valuable alternative, especially for those with aging muscles and joints. Improved strength, flexibility balance, posture and mental health are additional bonuses.

WHAT IS TAI CHI?

Tai Chi is multifaceted in that it combines martial arts, slow gentle and controlled movements, sustained postures, a focused and meditative mind, and controlled breathing. It is considered by many to be “meditation or medication in motion.”

Tai Chi involves slow-motion movements transitioning with control from one position to another. The positions have historically been named for the actions of animals, for example:

“White Crane Spreads its Wings”

Deep and purposeful breathing, mental focus, body awareness and meditation are integral components of the exercise. The beauty of Tai Chi is not only in the physical form, but also in its safety for all levels of fitness. It is helpful for individuals from high level athletes to those with physical disabilities. The movements are natural and gentle without forcing the muscles and joints to extreme or uncomfortable positions. It is often used as an adjunct therapy in the wellness as well as rehabilitation of a variety of athletic (ACL surgery, joint replacements) and neurological conditions (Parkinson’s, MS, head trauma), to name a few. Based on the aforementioned Chinese study, Tia Chi can be applied as a technique to control or lower blood pressure, especially for those who cannot utilize traditional aerobic exercise.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF TAI CHI

Tai Chi has been found to offer many physical and mental benefits. Some of these include:

Muscle Strength – upper and lower body, trunk and core strength

Flexibility – participants report improved range of motion and flexibility of the spine and extremities

Balance and Proprioception – some studies report a reduction of falls due to a variety of sustained positionsand improved awareness of one’s body in space

Aerobic Conditioning  -  recent studies have found that participants have lower heart rate and blood pressure

Mental Health – through improved balance, strength, and flexibility, studies show participants have gained confidence and control as well as lower blood pressure and stress reduction.

HOW TO BEGIN TAI CHI

All Tai Chi classes begin with four basic principles: warm-up, instruction, practice and breathing.

Warm-up- gentle easy motions to warm-up and loosen the joints and muscles to prevent injury.

Tai Chi Forms – “Short Forms” are beginner movements which are gentle, slow, and short in duration while “Long Forms” are more advanced.

Breath Work – gentle breathing combined with movement to relax the mind and focus energy

GETTING STARTED (HarvardHealth):

Don’t be intimidated by the language or history – Yang, Wu, Cheng are only brands of movements with a history of martial arts but this in no way impacts participation.

Get medical clearance – check with your physician to see if Tai Chi is safe for you. Some orthopedic or vestibular problems might require special attention.

Observe or take a beginner class – often available at local fitness clubs or senior centers. Research options in your area and find a friend to join you. Consider an introductory instructional video to get a feel for Tai Chi. (See local Tia Chi classes below)

Meet with an instructor – if it makes you more comfortable, make time to talk to an instructor before enrolling in a class.

Dress for success – wear loose-fitting clothes that allow for range of motion and comfortable shoes for balance and support.

Track your progress – use an app or keep a journal of your progress. Heart rate, blood pressure and endurance (the time you can hold a pose or tolerate a class) are easy to monitor.

Model: Lily Smith, University of Scranton Physical Therapy Student and PT aide at Mackarey Physical Therapy.

Sources: HarvardHealthPublishing; New Atlas; China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences (CACMS); National Institutes of Health

Local Tai Chi Classes: Steamtown Yoga, Scranton, PA; Mission Yoga, Scranton, PA;Dragon’s Heart Tai Chi & Kung Fu, Clarks Summit, PA; Rothrocks Kung Fu & Tai Chi, Duryea, PA

For more information: HarvardHealth; www.taichihealth.com; www.treeoflifetaichi.com

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

February is American Heart Month!

American Heart Month is not just for lovers. Long after the Valentine’s roses wilt, our hearts will require special attention for a long healthy life. It is the goal of The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to motivate Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles to prevent heart disease.

Not So Young at Heart!

A recent study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that while many Americans believe that they are “young at heart”, it turns out that many have hearts older than their actual age. For example, the study found that the average American male heart is eight years older and the average American female heart is five years older than their chronological age.

What does this mean?

The CDC’s findings may offer some explanation for the fact that many Americans die from heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure when compared to other people around the globe. Furthermore, while more Americans use heart medications more than other people in the world, heart attack and stroke continue to be the leading cause of death in the US, killing more than 80,000 each year.

What Can You Do?

The CDC has developed a new test to determine “Heart Age,” which has been found to be a much more reliable indicator of a person’s risk for heart disease. The heart age test will determine if your heart is older, younger or average for your age, which can be much more important for longevity than chronological age.

The CDC is encouraging people to take matters into their own hands …be proactive. In addition to calculating your Body Mass Index ((BMI), the CDC is asking people to use an online calculator to determine their heart age. The calculator will give a person a more accurate percentage of risk for heart attack or stroke. Based on the outcome, one must see their family physician or cardiologist to discuss the results and implement a plan.    

The Calculator - For Example:

Heart Age is very easy to use: You just need to enter your age, sex, blood pressure, whether you are treated for high blood pressure, whether you smoke or have diabetes, and your body mass index (BMI), with a handy calculator if you don’t know it. The tool gives you your risk for heart disease in the next ten years, compared with normal.

The CDC “Heart Age Test” is simple:

Visit: www.framinghamheartstudy.org or www.heartfoundation.org

Enter: sex, blood pressure, (list if controlled), diabetes (list if controlled), smoking history, and body mass index (BMI), a simple height/weight calculation found on-line at www.bmicalculator.cc

Example: A 53 year old women with an acceptable BMI, may actually find that she is at great risk for suffering a heart attack or stroke because she smokes cigarettes and has uncontrolled high blood pressure. The calculator includes all the significant factors proven by science to affect a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke. These include: blood pressure, weight, BMI, blood sugar, cholesterol, age, sex and smoking history.

Example: 50 year old male smoker has uncontrolled high blood pressure of 140/96, no history of diabetes, and a BMI of 30 has a predicted heart age of 72 years. A female with a similar profile would have a heart age of 74 years.

The Solution

To some, the solution may be obvious and for others it may be impossible. In the previous example of the 50 year old smoker, if he quit smoking for one year, he would halve reduced his heart age by 14 years (15 years for a woman). If he would reduce his blood pressure to 120, he would reduce his heart age by 6 years (10 years for a woman). And, if both risk factors were removed, he would reduce his heart age by 19 years (23 for a woman).

In the above examples, the 53 year old man does not have to take his 72 year old heart age as a death sentence.

What Individuals can do…

What Public Health Policy Can do…

BY THE WAY…I took the test:

Male: 65

Systolic Blood Pressure: 110

No high blood pressure or diabetes; non smoker

BMI: 22.5

HEART AGE: 62

SOURCES: WWW.CDC.GOV

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

During a recent “lunch-and-learn” meeting at our office, several younger staff members were discussing the use of supplements to compliment their fitness routines. One such staff member, Lily Smith, a physical therapy student aid at our clinic from the University of Scranton, is also a serious weight training and fitness enthusiast and shared her experience with creatine supplements with the hope of educating others, especially those preparing to “get fit” in 2024!

A National Health Interview survey found the creatine use among adolescents and young adults to be 34%. It is also very popular in the military with 27% average usage. While athletes and exercise enthusiasts use protein shakes and creatine supplements with hopes to improve size, strength and performance, it appears that most users do not have a full understanding of the risks and benefits. In view of this, today address the use of creatine in strength training and make recommendations based on the literature.

Introduction

As long as I can remember, young athletes would take or do anything that they believed would improve their speed, strength, agility and athletic edge in order to succeed in sports. Running with weights wrapped around the ankles, drinking raw eggs and whole milk, and consuming copious amounts of beef, pork, and chicken were not unusual. Today, it may not be much different. However, the products do not come from our kitchen cabinet and tremendous misinformation is associated with it. Creatine is one example that was purported to enhance performance as early as the 1970’s but only gained popularity in the 1990’s. 40% of all college athletes and 50% of professional athletes admit to using creatine at some point, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support its effectiveness or safety.

Creatine

This supplement is a natural substance that turns into creatine phosphate in the body. Creatine phosphate helps produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides energy for muscles to contract. While the body produces some creatine, it can also be found in foods rich in protein such as meat and fish. Manufacturers claim that creatine use will improve strength, increase lean muscle mass and aide in the recovery from exercise induced fatigue.

Research

While creatine is popular among young people due in part to its availability, very little research has been done in people under 18 years of age.  Even in the few studies conducted on adults, the results regarding efficacy are mixed. Some studies show that creatine may improve strength performance due to the recovery cycle of ATP. In theory, the use of creatine is purported to allow one to recover more quickly from exercise. For example, shortly after lifting heavy weights to failure, a quick recovery might allow the weight lifter to lift an additional set of repetitions to increase the duration of intensive training. Therefore, based on this theory, one must work out to complete failure during training to benefit from creatine. However, it is important to remember, there is no evidence that this purported benefit is realized in performance improvement in weight training or endurance sports.

Furthermore, no studies support the notion that it improves performance in endurance sports. Also, research does show that not all users are affected by creatine the same way. Most users fail to find any benefit at all. More concerning to this author is the fact that there are no guidelines for safety or disclosure of side-effects from long term use. Make no mistake, based on the research and current wisdom, CREATINE IS AN UNPROVEN TREATMENT SUPPLEMENT!

Manufacturers Recommended Usage

If one decides that creatine is a product they would like to use, despite the lack of evidence for its effectiveness, there are recommendations that one should follow for proper use. But there is no consistently established dose. Some studies have found 25 grams daily for 14 days as a “kickstart” dose or “loading” phase followed by 4-5 grams (or 0.1 g/kg of bodyweight) daily for 18 months with few side effects such as: muscle cramps, dehydration, upset stomach, water retention/bloating with weight gain. It is important to remember when establishing a dosage that many weight training supplements already contain creatine and in high doses excess creatine is excreted by the kidneys. It is also recommended that creatine users “wean off” the product when they decide to discontinue use.

Remember, an average adult in the United States receives 1 to 2 grams of creatine each day from a normal, well-balanced diet. Creatine is naturally found in meat, poultry and fish and theoretically, one could increase their creatine intake through dietary changes. Some manufacturers recommend 10 to 30 grams per day with a maintenance dose of 2 to 5 grams per day for athletic performance. Creatine is available in many forms; tablets, capsules and powder. It should be kept in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

Side Effects

Creatine use is not recommended if you are pregnant, breast feeding, have kidney disease or bipolar disorder. There are many reported side effects associated with creatine use such as; water retention, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, muscle pain and high blood pressure. It is recommended that users consume large quantities of water when taking creatine to prevent dehydration. It may be very dangerous to use creatine when dehydration or weight loss is associated with an activity such as wrestling or summer sessions during football. 

Furthermore, some studies show that large amounts of carbohydrates may increase the effects of creatine and caffeine may decrease the effects. Users are warned that using creatine with stimulants such as caffeine and guarana (a Brazilian plant extract similar to caffeine found in energy drinks) can lead to serious cardiac problems. The effects of creatine supplements on the many organ systems of the body are unknown. High doses may cause kidney damage. Although no cases have been reported in the literature, it is not known how it may interact with other supplements, over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, despite the lack of scientific evidence that creatine is more effective than proper nutrition and effective weight training, it remains a popular, easily available supplement purported to improve strength, endurance and performance in athletes. While relatively safe if taken as directed, it is always wise to consult your physician, especially if you have a history or risk of kidney problems. And, by the way, Lily did not feel that creatine supplements made any significant difference, positively or negatively. She no longer uses it due to the expense, inconvenience and lack of scientific evidence to support its efficacy.

Sources: University of New England; Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise; NIH and Lily Smith, PT student, University of Scranton, Student PT aide, Mackarey Physicla Therapy

.Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Holiday Spirit Requires a Healthy Mind, Body, Spirit!

Happy Holidays! It is at this time of year that we celebrate life with great hope and faith. People of many faiths take time to reflect, respect, and resolve. Christians celebrate Christmas, the miraculous birth of Christ, the Son of God, and the Messiah. Jews celebrate Chanukah, the miraculous festival of lights, when one night’s oil provided enough light and safety for 8 nights. Both major faiths promote healthy lifestyles for the mind, body and spirit. These faiths are grounded in hope, faith, love and peace. It is no surprise that studies repeatedly demonstrate that faithful and spiritual people live longer and healthier lives! At this turbulent time in the world, it is important to note that people of all faiths benefited equally!

With this in mind, I purport, that to be truly healthy, one must have faith because complete health is multidimensional. Socrates preached this message to his students thousands of years before Christ. One must have a healthy mind, which requires intellectual stimulation with attainable goals related to education and intellect. One must have a healthy body by eating well, engaging in physical activity and have attainable goals related to his/her body. Likewise, one must have a healthy spirit with faith, hope, prayer and meditation, comrades and counsel, and set attainable spiritual goals.

5 Health Benefits of Religion and Spirituality….(health.com)

How being religious or spiritual has been shown to benefit your mind, body and spirit.

1. Healthy Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). It affects 1 in every 3 adults and only half of these people have their blood pressure under control. Well, religion and spiritually may help …

The health benefits of religion or spirituality are well documented.  One study conducted at Duke University Medical Center on 4,000 subjects, older adults who described themselves as religiously active were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure when compared to those less active. Moreover, they were surprised to find that those who described themselves as spiritual rather than religious also were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

2. Greater Sense of Satisfaction

Research also indicates that religious people are more satisfied with their lives than those without faith. A sociology study determined that high satisfaction among church goers may be due to the strong social bonds that are developed within a religious congregation. Regular church attendees see the same people weekly and often more often, when participating in rewarding and gratifying church-related volunteer work.

3. Greater Tolerance for Adversity

In an impressive study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers interviewed 345 late-stage cancer patients to assess their spirituality as it related to their illness. 88% stated that they were religious as it related to their coping mechanisms. It was determined that those using religion for coping demonstrated a 7.4% rate of resuscitation as compared to 1.8% for those not using religion as a coping mechanism.   

4. Stronger Immune System

According to a Duke University study of 1,718 older adult participants, those described as “highly spiritual” were 50% less likely to have high levels of anti-inflammatory proteins that weaken the immune system and have been linked to some cancers, viral infections and autoimmune diseases. The outcome was similar for those who attend religious services at least once a week.  

5. Greater Longevity

Those who attend religious services more than once per week are found to live and additional 7 years when compared to those who never attend services. Again, researchers feel that the social benefits of a belonging to a strong religious community may be a large part of the associated longevity. Additionally, the lifestyle of religious people is often healthier: members of these communities rarely engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, indiscriminate, unprotected sex, etc. 

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in Scranton and Clarks Summit and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

We are more than one month into the New Year and many people are still talking about their health and fitness goals. As you probably know, losing weight and getting fit are the most popular resolutions, however, for many who have not maintained an active lifestyle in years, it is challenging to know where to begin. Moreover, beginning without a good plan can lead to injury and leave you discouraged. For example, those overweight and de-conditioned should not start a walking program to aggressively. Walking at a fast pace and long distance without gradually weaning into it will most likely lead to problems.

WALKING FOR HEALTH

There is probably nothing more natural to human beings than walking. Ever since Australopithecus, an early hominin (human ancestor) who evolved in Southern and Eastern Africa between 4 and 2 million years ago, that our ancestors took their first steps as committed bipeds. With free hands, humans advanced in hunting, gathering, making tools etc. while modern man uses walking as, not only a form of locomotion, but also as a form of exercise and fitness. It is natural, easy and free...no equipment or fitness club membership required!

BENEFITS OF WALKING

“There’s no question that increasing exercise, even moderately, reduces the risks of many diseases, including coronary heart disease, breast and colon cancer, and Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Jennifer Joyce, MD, professor of family medicine at GCSOM. “Research has even shown that you could gain two hours of life for each hour that you exercise regularly.”

According to the American Heart Association, walking as little as 30 minutes a day can provide the following benefits:

PLAN AHEAD

SET REALISTIC GOALS

Anything is better than nothing! However, for most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. Also aim to do strength training exercises of all major muscle groups at least two times a week.

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If you can't set aside that much time, try several short sessions of activity throughout the day (3 ten or 2 fifteen minute sessions). Even small amounts of physical activity are helpful, and accumulated activity throughout the day adds up to provide health benefit.

Remember it's OK to start slowly — especially if you haven't been exercising regularly. You might start with five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes.

For even more health benefits, aim for at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Once you are ready for a challenge, add hills, increase speed and distance.

TRACK YOUR PROGRESS

Keeping a record of how many steps you take, the distance you walk and how long it takes can help you see where you started from and serve as a source of inspiration. Record these numbers in a walking journal or log them in a spreadsheet or a physical activity app. Another option is to use an electronic device such as a smart watch, pedometer or fitness tracker to calculate steps and distance.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Make walking part of your daily routine. Pick a time that works best for you. Some prefer early morning, others lunchtime or after work. Enter it in your smart phone with a reminder and get to it!

FIND A WALKING PARTNER

Studies show that compliance with an exercise program is significantly improved when an exercise buddy is part of the equation. It is hard to let someone down or break plans when you commit to someone. Keep in mind that your exercise buddy can also include your dog!

USE EFFICIENT WALKING TECHNIQUE

Like everything, there is a right way of doing something, even walking. For efficiency and safety, walking with proper stride is important. A fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements. Ideally, here's how you'll look when you're walking:

Sources : Sapiens.org; WebMD; Mayo Clinic

* Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles: Visit our Healthcare Forum!