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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!

It is four months since many people have made their health and fitness resolutions and hopefully some have stayed the course.  If you are looking for another reason to stick to your New Year’s Resolution to get fit and lose weight in 2024 try this…to improve or prevent hip and knee pain!

There are three major weight-bearing joints in the body, the hip, knee and ankle/foot. Consequently, wear and tear and arthritis are common among these joints. There are almost 800,000 knee replacements and 450,000 hip replacements annually in the United States alone. While there are many recommended methods to avoid or delay joint replacement, only a few are within our control. Genetics, trauma, degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are difficult to control. However, body weight, aggressive weight bearing sports and overdoing exercises as you age like excessive running, jumping, lifting and squatting can be modified or eliminated to limit the progression of joint damage.  According to WebMD, “your knees are powerhouses. They’re the biggest, strongest, joints in your body, and most people use them throughout the day to sit, stand, walk, jump, and bend. They bear 80% of your body weight when you stand still and 150% or more when you walk across the room. In a 160-pound person, that’s 240 pounds of force!”

Body Weight and Hip & Knee Pain

According to the National Institutes of Health, body weight or body mass index (BMI) has a direct impact on hip and knee degeneration, pain and dysfunction. In fact, one study found that people with or at risk of significant hip/knee osteoarthritis had a 2-3% reduction in risk of hip or knee replacement for every 1% reduction in weight, regardless of the baseline BMI.

It is commonly known that the primary cause of osteoarthritis is normal wear and tear, especially for those over 50. However, extra body weight can accelerate this process. As the joint degenerates, the cartilage at the end and in between your joints gets compressed and dehydrated which leads to deterioration. Eventually, the bones rub directly on each other as the cushion wears away, leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness, loss of motion, strength and function.   

While it may seem obvious that extra weight will put more strain and stress on the hip and knee joints; another mechanism involved in this degenerative process. Excess body fat can increase chemicals in your blood stream that can cause inflammation in your joints.

How to Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

If you need a goal and a motive, how about this: losing even 10 pounds will equate to 40 pounds less force compressing and stressing your hips and knees. Moreover, reducing body fat will limit the hormones that cause inflammation in your joints. Talk to your primary care physician or visit www.cdc .gov to find a BMI calculator. Just plug in your height and weight and it calculates it for you. For example, a 155-pound male at 5 feet 8 inches tall has a BMI of 23.6. (A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a healthy weight for this person).

Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is a solid start to eating healthy. It is less of a diet and more of a lifestyle. The foundation of this diet is plant foods built around vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains. Moderate amounts of fish, dairy, poultry and eggs with limited consumption of red meat are paramount. The Mediterranean lifestyle also includes shared meals with family and friends, small portions, regular exercise, and wine in moderation with food and friends.

Exercise

Exercise has many more benefits than just losing weight. Physical activity is one of the most important factors in improving a lifestyle in a positive way. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days per week can greatly contribute to weight loss and longevity.  

Researchers have found that the benefits of regular physical activity are numerous. Some of the more important benefits are:

Some simple suggestions for beginning an exercise program are:

 Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

  Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well

SOURCES: WebMD, National Institutes of Health; CDC, American Council on Exercise

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!

Seasonal allergies affect 30 % of adults and 40% of children in the United States. Avoiding the outdoors is often not an option…especially if you enjoy outdoor activities and sports. Not long ago, it was unthinkable that an athlete with serious seasonal allergies could compete at a high level, such as the Olympics. Now, in great part due to advanced research, medications and proper management, an Olympic gold medal for those suffering from seasonal allergies is a reality. Recently, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health have published research on this topic to provide a better understanding and make recommendations.

The most common allergic reactions which athletes suffer from are sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose and coughing. Moreover, 67% of those with these symptoms also suffer from asthma. The athlete in NEPA is particularly vulnerable when the pollen count is high during spring and fall for several reasons. One, after being indoors all winter, one might develop a heightened sensitivity to allergens. Also, increased rapid and deep breathing during exercise makes athletes more susceptible to significant symptoms when exposed to allergens such as tree, grass and weed pollens.

Treatment

Allergy Shots/Drops

Allergy skin testing can be performed to determine the allergens to which you are susceptible. Once determined, allergy shots are effective in building up tolerance to these allergens. If appropriate, you may be able to use allergy drops, administered under the tongue and conveniently used at home.  

Pre-Treat    

Asthma suffers should use their inhaler BEFORE symptoms occur. A recent study found that pretreatment using a short-acting bronchodilator inhaler within 15 minutes before exercise is very effective in preventing asthma symptoms for more than four hours. It is important to keep a bronchodilator available. If you fail to benefit from this, see your physician for other methods to control your exercise-induced symptoms.

Warm-up/Cool Down

Whether you have allergic respiratory problems from rhinitis or asthma, you many benefit from conditioning your airways with a 10 to 15 minute warm-up before and cool-down after the activity. This may serve to gradually prepare your lungs for an increased demand.

Hydrate

In addition to preventing dehydration on hot and humid days, constant hydration is very important for the athlete with allergies to prevent dry airways in athletes.

Guidelines for Athletes with Allergies from the National Athletic Trainers Association:

Educate Staff

Know the signs and symptoms of asthma (coughing, wheezing, tightness in chest, shortness of breath).

Plan for the Problem

Some schools have a file on each student athlete with a allergic or asthmatic problem which requires medication. The file includes information such as medical doctor release and instruction, emergency contacts and medications. Students must have their medications on hand before they can enter the field. The National Athletic Trainers Association recommends using a peak flow meter to monitor at risk players and can determine when a player can return to the field.

Practice in Climate Control

If possible, find an alternate practice facility with climate control for athletes at risk. Plan practices for these athletes when the pollen count is low. Check the newspaper or internet for pollen counts in your area. Training by the water, (ocean) where there is a breeze and less pollen is helpful.

Additional Suggestions:

Shower and change clothing immediately after being outdoors

During a flare up, do less aerobic exercise to limit stress on respiratory system. Try strength training indoors instead. 

When pollen count is high, keep windows shut at home and in your car….use air-conditioning.

Keep pets out of your bedroom…especially when sleeping

Dry clothing in dryer…do not hang on clothesline outdoors

Sources: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. National Athletic Trainers Association.

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!

This column is dedicated to the memory of John R. O’Brien, Esq., who recently passed due to medical complications associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). John was a source of joy and inspiration for those fortunate to have known him. Twenty years ago, John hesitantly agreed to contribute to my column on MS with two requirements: one, if the column would be valuable to those affected by MS and two, he would remain anonymous. When speaking with his dedicated wife, Sally, it became very apparent that any discussion of John’s life would be diminished if it was defined by the disease because he was committed to turning his “DISABILITY INTO AN ABILITY!”

With the help of his loving wife, family, friends, and devices such as an electric scooter and adaptive car, John not only lived but thrived! He was a skilled lawyer, a respected member of the Bar, and an active member of the community. John served on the executive committee of the Lackawanna Bar Association. In addition, the Lackawanna Pro Bono honored him recently. He also taught business law and healthcare law and coached Prep’s mock trial team.

John shared his thoughts with me about the challenges of redefining life… from Golf Club Champion to living with a physically disabling disease. Anyone who knew him would agree that he succeeded in doing so through his keen intellect and sharp wit and humor…his heart and brain overcompensated for his body! In addition to reading books in Latin and Greek, he had his crossword puzzles published in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. In September 2023, John conducted an interview with presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin before a full house at the Scranton Cultural Center. Ms. Goodwin later reported that John was the most knowledgeable, effective and enjoyable interviewer she’s encountered.

John’s absence will be deeply felt and his legacy will continue to shape our community for years to come!

Multiple Sclerosis:

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease. While it may lay dormant and stable for a period of time, living a healthy lifestyle will make a positive contribution toward how you and your family live with Multiple Sclerosis. Studies show that a life of family, love, and support are essential to maintain a positive attitude with a chronic illness. This combined with a healthy diet and proper exercise can contribute greatly toward taking control and living a relatively normal life with MS.

PSYCHOLOGICAL & SPIRITUAL WELLNESS:

As I have mentioned in many other columns, studies show that people with good attitudes and great faith live longer than others. This is especially helpful when living with chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis. The Cleveland Clinic offers some suggestions how to maintain a positive attitude:

EXERCISE & PHYSICAL WELLNESS:

Many sources, including the Cleveland Clinic suggest that exercise, when performed properly, can have a positive impact on Multiple Sclerosis symptoms both physically and psychologically. However, because you have a chronic illness, you should consult with you family physician and physical therapist before beginning an exercise program. They will advise you on the proper type and amount of exercise.

TIPS FOR EXERCISE WITH MS:

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!

Part I of II

PEOPLE WILL OFTEN ASK ME, “IS THERE SUCH A THING AS AN EXERCISE RUT?” THEY WANT TO KNOW WHY THEY DO NOT SEEM TO BE IMPROVING WITH THEIR EXERCISE PROGRAM…they exercise 3-4 times a week for 30 to 45 minutes and they feel frustrated and STUCK in a rut. While initially responding favorably to exercise, after 6 -9 months or more, they do not notice progress in weight loss, strength, tone, endurance or daily function.

The purpose of this column will be to offer suggestions on how to improve or get more out of a “stale” exercise program or an exercise rut. Step one is to build an exercise program that is grounded in the basics. Next step two, which begins after the basics have been mastered, includes the components necessary for a healthy mind, body and spirit connection and translates into functional activities of daily living including work and leisure sports.

STEP ONE: CARDIOVASCULAR; STRENGTH; FLEXIBILITY

Make sure your routine has all three fundamental components of a well-balanced exercise program; cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. While each component offers its own specific benefit, the combination of all three cooperatively provides unique value. Too often, fitness enthusiasts concentrate on the exercises they LIKE or are good at more than the ones they NEED. A well-balanced program includes what you like and need! In fact, recent studies show that those performing all three components surpassed those performing one or any combination of two of the training types when tested for efficient oxygen uptake (VO2 Max), production of HDL (good cholesterol), lower body fat percentage, and lower blood glucose levels.

CARDIOVASCULAR TRAINING:

Cardiovascular exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate and respiratory rate. This type of exercise strengthens the heart muscle and the muscles that assist in breathing. When these muscles are stronger, they in turn work more efficiently to deliver oxygen to your muscles and other parts of the body. Ultimately, these oxygenated muscles can work harder and longer to burn fat during exercise and at rest.

Examples of Cardiovascular Exercises:  Running, Brisk Walking, Swimming, Biking, Rowing, Elliptical Training and Stepper Training. Most experts recommend at least 30 minutes of sustained cardio, 3-4 days per week. However, recent studies support the notion of performing 10-15 minutes, twice daily, 4 days per week. For those “stuck” in a fitness or exercise rut, to advance your program, cardio should be performed 5-6 days per week for 45-60 minutes.

Improving a Cardio Training Program:
STRENGTH TRAINING:

Strength training is an activity that provides any type of resistance to muscle contraction to build strength in the muscle. The resistance can be without movement against an immovable object such as pushing against a wall (isometric) or with movement such as lifting up or lowering a weight down against gravity (isotonic/dynamic). There are two types of isotonic muscle contraction; concentric, which involves raising the weight against gravity as the muscle shortens and eccentric which involves lowering a weight against gravity as the muscle lengthens. A standing biceps curl is an example that incorporates both concentric and eccentric contractions. A progressive strength training program includes all three types of muscle contraction. By using the classic bicep muscle curl these photos will demonstrate all three types of muscle contraction:

-Isometric Bicep Muscle Curl – pull up on door knob without allowing any movement of the arm.

-Concentric Bicep Muscle Curl – raise a dumbbell up against gravity as the muscle shortens.

-Eccentric Bicep Muscle Curl – lower a dumbbell slowly (4-6 seconds) against gravity as the muscle lengthens.

Improving a Strength Training Program:

Sources: National Institutes of Health; American Council on Exercise

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

NEXT WEEK! Read Stuck in an Exercise Rut…Part II of II:

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 National Cancer Prevention Month and March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Unfortunately, according to a study conducted by Northeast Regional Cancer Institute (NRCI), our area has a higher rate of cancer compared to the rest of the United States. Residents of NEPA must be vigilant! While there is no fool-proof method for cancer prevention, scientific research does support the fact that healthy lifestyle choices are essential.

Important Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer:

  1. AVOID SMOKE AND SMOKING! - Perhaps the most important thing one can do to prevent cancer is to avoid smoking…first hand or second hand. It has been directly linked to cancer of the lung, head and neck, bladder and pancreas and others. Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by 20 to 30 times.
  2. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise - 30 -45 Minutes of moderate exercise or physical activity 4-5 days per week is recommended to reduce the risk of cancer. Walk, ride a bike, swim, or join a gym, just do something! However, individuals exercising for longer durations at higher intensities were shown to experience the greatest reduction in their risk cancer.
    • Why Exercise Works - Various biological mechanisms including hormonal changes have been suggested as possible reasons for the reduction in cancer through exercise. However, current research has demonstrated a strong link between cancer and stress. Stress, which reduces our body’s natural defense mechanisms, such as adrenal cortical or stress hormones, increases our susceptibility to disease including cancer. Exercise and physical activity has been shown to not only reduce stress, anxiety, and depression but also to elevate mood. These psychological improvements may be the reason why exercise and physical activity are effective in preventing cancer.
      • Obesity as a risk factor for cancer has been demonstrated in the scientific literature for years. Individuals that are more physically active are usually not overweight. Exercise increases basal metabolic rate, expends calories, and burns fat to help control your weight and to help maintain a more normal lean body mass. Physical activity and exercise prevent obesity.
    • Colorectal Cancer - Physical activity and exercise has been shown to have the greatest prevention against colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men and women combined. Physical activity reduced the risk of colorectal cancer up to 70% for both men and women.
    • Breast Cancer - Research has been able to establish a similar relationship between physical activity and breast cancer. Approximately one out of every eight women in the United States can develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer up to 40%.
    • Prostate Cancer - Prostate cancer, the second most common cause of male death, will affect one in every five American males. However, the risk of prostate cancer can be reduced up to 30% through physical activity and exercise. Researchers hypothesize that exercise may have its greatest protective effect against prostate cancer when initiated early in a man’s life.
    • Cancer of the Lung/Uterus/Cervix - Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Cancers of the uterus and cervix will accounts for 7,400 deaths annually in the United States. Exercise and physical activity can reduce the risk of lung and uterine/cervical cancer up to 40% and 90%, respectively.
  3. Avoid Obesity and Stress - Both obesity and stress, as mentioned above, have been linked with cancer of various types. A healthy low-fat diet, limited in red meat, with moderate amounts of fish, rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts along with and regular exercise are essential components for prevention , especially for colorectal and prostate cancer.
  4. Use a Water Filter - The use of a good home water filter has many healthy benefits. It may reduce your exposure to carcinogens and other harmful chemicals. Also, using a steel or glass container to store drinking water is important to avoid chemicals such as BPA found in plastic bottles.
  5. Drink Plenty of Water - The American Cancer Society recommends drinking more than 8 cups of water per day to prevent bladder cancer by diluting the concentration of urine in the bladder. 
  6. Limit Consumption of Meat - Processed, charred, blackened, and well-done meats are associated with heterocyclic amines, which are cancer causing and formed when charcoal broiling meat. Marinating meat for an extended time prior to grilling has been recommended to improve safety according to some studies.
  7. Eat Green Vegetables - Some studies suggest that the really dark greens such as spinach, kale, collards and broccoli are valuable in cancer preventions. Endive, arugula, and romaine must be added to this list.
  8. Eat Nuts - Some studies show that snacking on Brazil nuts and other nuts high in antioxidants, lowers the risk of some cancers such as bladder, lung and colorectal.
  9. Limit Sun Exposure - Take time to use adequate sun block and proper clothing to protect your skin from the sun to prevent skin cancer, especially if you are light skinned. At all costs, avoid sunburn!
  10. Eat Organic and Natural Foods - When possible, buy fresh foods and meats free of antibiotic and hormones. Choose organic produce grown free of pesticides. Eat farm-raised fish and limit consumption of fish from waters high in mercury concentration
  11.  Visit Your Physician Regularly - Regular check-ups by your physician is essential to stay healthy and have early detection of disease. Many tests and vaccinations offer life saving information such as: PAP tests, mammograms, colonoscopies, PSA blood tests and others. Ask your physician about new vaccinations such as HPV, Human Papillomavirus. These are important for the prevention of cervical cancer in women and head and neck cancer in men.

Source: American Cancer Society

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!

Kick Start Your Wellness New Year’s Resolutions- Part I of II

January is the time of year that many people set goals and resolve to be their very best. Not surprisingly, weight loss and fitness are the most common resolutions. It is also a time when many residents of NEPA will plan vacations and travel to warmer climates. Well, it may be that you can do both…this year consider visiting a “Fitness Resort!” According to “FitStays,” fitness resorts are rapidly gaining popularity for people of all sizes and shapes.

What is a Fitness Resort? (fitstays.com)

A fitness resort is a vacation destination where travelers go to exercise and lose weight. Sometimes called a “weight loss resort”, “fitness retreat”, “wellness resort”, “weight loss boot camp”, or “adult fat camp”, fitness resorts around the United States cater to people of all shapes and sizes.

Most fitness resorts consist of pre-determined, calorie-limited menus to help travelers in their weight loss journey. Some resorts promote menus of 1,000 to 1,500 calories-per-day, which is fewer than most people burn naturally via their resting metabolic rate (RMR).

In addition to net-negative calories through nutrition, fitness resorts and fitness retreats typically have an extensive workout plan as part of their standard program. Many resorts and retreats offer daily hiking, in addition to cardio and strength classes and assorted sports and other physical activities.

The combination of healthy nutrition and active exercise means that most visitors can expect to lose weight at a fitness resort. Specific weight loss goals will be determined by which fitness resort you pick, how long you stay, and how strenuously you want to stick to the program.

Fitness Resort – What’s it all about?

Fitness resorts (fitness retreats) are not your average “Reality TV Fat Camp.” In fact, you do not have to be excessively overweight to attend as people of all shapes and sizes benefit and enjoy the experience. Thousands of people chose to visit fitness resorts and fitness retreats every year because they are looking for a healthy alternative to a typical vacation. Instead, many want to “kick-start” a healthy lifestyle in a controlled environment.

Positive Results

Fitness resorts have been found to be effective for most attendees. The basic concept of combining a limited-calorie diet with daily exercise, most people will have net-negative calories every day, lose weight, and gain strength and endurance at a fitness resort—provided they stick to the program.

While some people report losing 1-3 pounds-per-week at a fitness resort, others experience much more success. Exactly how much you will lose will be dependent on a wide variety of factors, including the duration and intensity of your exercise and activities and the calories you consume. Inherently, men tend to lose weight more easily than women, and younger people typically have an easier time shedding pounds than older people.

Ideally, for long term success, a fitness resort program should be a part of a healthy lifestyle, rather than an absolute weight loss goal. Be aware that many “spas and wellness centers” entice people with lavish facilities in a beautiful environment but mostly offer passive modalities such as massage, meditation, acupuncture, manicures, pedicures and facials. While these modalities have value, if your goal is jump start on weight loss and physical fitness, a fitness resort may be a better option.

Frequently Asked Questions…“Will they starve me?” “How intense is the exercise?” “Will I be intimidated?”

Most fitness resorts are not “diet retreats” or painful “boot camps.” With a little effort, you can easily find the right fit for you. You will not starve! While you need to limit caloric intake, you also need enough energy for the 3-6 hours of exercise and activities (swimming, biking, hiking, Zumba, Yoga) offered. There is no need to be intimidated as most attendees are like-minded people with the same goals and needs. A good resort will not only provide the right amount of calories and exercise for your goals but also educate you how to prepare meals and engage in proper exercise once you return home.

A Typical Day at a Fitness Resort

According to FitStays, most fitness resorts offer a set schedule and a camp-like experience for adults with three meals every day, usually prepared by expert nutrition staff and/or dietitians, designed around healthy foods. A typical morning begins with extended cardio exercises, such as a run, bike or hike. The afternoon may have more intense exercise classes such as strength training classes as well as more fun activities such as sports and games. Educational classes are offered throughout the day, so you can carryover the lessons from your fitness resort experience when you return home. Evenings are usually lighter to allow for leisure, rest, or spa services, which are also offered at many resorts.

NEXT WEEK: FITNESS RESORTS - PART II – A typical day at a fitness resort, recommended length stay, cost and top 20 recommended resorts.

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, please check out our exercise forum!

New Year’s Resolutions are very predictable. While most New Year Resolutions are health oriented, I purport that a healthy mind, body and spirit requires a healthy lifestyle. Interestingly, the ten most popular resolutions listed below, all have an impact on a healthy life.  

  1. More Time With Family And Friends
    • Polls repeatedly show that one of the most consistent resolutions for the New Year is to make more time to spend with family and friends. Moreover, research shows that the comfort and camaraderie of these people whom we love is important to our health and well-being.
  2. Begin or Improve a Fitness Program
    • The benefits of regular exercise is no longer anecdotal, it is factual. Daily exercise, even in small doses, has been associated with more health benefits than anything else known to man. Studies clearly demonstrate that it reduces cholesterol and coronary artery disease and the risk of some cancers. Also, it increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, and even improves arthritis. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and makes you look and feel better. If done properly, there is no down side. So, make this year the year to do it!
  3. Adhere to a Weight Loss Plan
    • Recent studies report that more than 66 percent of adult Americans are considered overweight or obese. As a result, weight loss is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. However, adhering to a weight loss program is not easy. It requires many things, including, setting reasonable goals and staying focused. Often, professional help is required. While this may be one of the most difficult goals to attain, the ultimate reward and value is well worth the effort.
  4. Stop Smoking
    • Second only to losing weight, this resolution, while extremely difficult, is another life-saving goal that must be attempted. Studies report that smokers try and fail four times on average before they are successful. SO, KEEP TRYING! Get help. Talk to your physician about using over-the-counter or prescription nicotine replacement therapy and proven quit-smoking aids. Consider smoking cessation classes, support groups and hotlines in addition to the meds. This is one goal that is worth the effort.
  5. Find Your Smile
    • Due in great part to our hectic and stressful work and family demands, the United States is home to millions of people requiring the use of mood elevators and antidepressants. As a result, it is important to learn what really makes you happy in order to FIND YOUR SMILE. It requires the balance of a healthy mind, body and spirit. It might be a walk in the snow, taking dance classes or a trip to the spa. One hint, it is often something simple and inexpensive.
  6. Moderate Drinking
    • This is one tip for a healthier New Year that I expect to receive plenty of flack about! But, I would be remise if I did not mention this potentially harmful habit. While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are unable to adhere to such a rigid goal. Studies show that moderate drinking can offer many health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and coronary artery disease but that is defined as one or two 8 ounce drinks per day and red wine is preferred. However, many heavy drinkers would do well to taper off to a moderate level. Consider participating in “Dry January!” For those with a problem and have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available such as Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also a number of treatment-based programs, as well as support groups for families of alcoholics.
  7. Get Finances in Order
    • This is one tip that few consider being health related. However, serious stress from financial problems affects millions of Americans every day. This cumulative stress can be very harmful to your health and can be lessened by initiating a plan. Get professional help and learn how to downsize and reevaluate your real needs…less toys with less stress for a longer life!  
  8. Try Something New
    • There may be no one thing more important to gaining a new perspective on life that to have learned something new. It could be as drastic as returning to school to prepare for a career change or as simple as learning to play bridge. Have you vowed to make this year the year to learn something new? Take a course at local college or read a new book. Visit the Everhart Museum or take the free tour of the Scranton Cultural Center. It will enrich your life and make you a more interesting person. Most local colleges and universities offer distance and adult education programs.
  9. Service To Others
    • Service to others is service to you! There may not be anything more gratifying than providing a service to others in need. Volunteerism makes you a better and healthier person. It fits into any schedule. Donate clothes, time or resources. Locally, we have many charitable causes in need of help: Be a “Friend of the Poor,” or serve lunch at St. Frances Soup Kitchen.
  10. Get Organized
    • The goal of organization, like the goal of financial order, has similar health implications because it eliminates tremendous stress. There are many books and websites that offer suggestions on how to organize just about anything in your life. For this reason, I love my iPhone – there’s an App for that!

SOURCE: A. Powell, About.com Guide

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. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Every December, as we finish the last of the leftover turkey, patients begin to talk about the holiday season and gift shopping. This conversation invariably leads to suggestions for gift ideas related to health, exercise and fitness. The suggestions below offer a wide variety of fitness related gifts, some expensive and frivolous and others reasonably priced and practical. I hope it makes your shopping a little easier. 

1. Dry Tech Exercise Clothing

Dry Tech is the best thing that has happened to exercise apparel since “jogging suit” was donned by all the “cool dudes” in the 70’s and 80’s . It is has great style and even better function. The specially made material is light weight and breathable and wicks moisture from the skin to the outer layers. Therefore, it will not get heavy with sweat which can weigh you down and cause friction with your skin which can lead to chaffing and blisters. The following exercise apparel is now available in Dry Tech:

NOTE: Shoes are a very important aspect to safe and comfortable exercise but are unique for running and other specific sports (tennis, basketball). Sneakers may be too difficult to buy for someone else. A gift certificate to an athletic shoe store (Scranton Running or Dick’s) may be a better choice.

2. Trekking Poles

For walking and hiking enthusiasts, trekking poles can be the perfect gift, especially for those over 50 and when on uneven terrain or inclement weather. The research is compelling…less stress on the lower back, hip, knee and ankle, as well as improved balance and safety. Leki, Black Diamond, and Trekology are good name brands while LL Bean and REI are reputable companies.

3. Exercise Mat

An exercise mat is helpful if you decide to exercise at home. Also, a required equipment for participating in yoga or Pilates classes is a mat.

4. Hand-Held Dumbbells and Sandbag Leg Weights

These are essential for those interested in home exercise. For the average beginner, 3-5-8-10 pound (two of each) weights will be adequate.  Dumbbells are good for shrugs, biceps, and triceps, bent over rows and lats, and lunges. Incremented and stackable dumbbells are also available by Bowflex SelecTech 552 (5-52 pounds for $299). and NordicTrack $189. Sandbags, which can be purchased as graduated weights from 1 to 5 pounds, are good for leg extensions, hamstring curls, hip hikes and hip abduction.  

5. Resistance Bands

These cheap and versatile bands are also essential for a home program. The bands come in different colors to represent the amount of resistance with yellow being the easiest and black the most difficult. They are useful for upper and lower body. For specific band exercises visit a previous column in “Health & Exercise Forum” at The Times Tribune or www.mackareyphysicaltherapy.com

6. Aerobic Equipment

NOTE:  Peloton, NordicTrack, SoulCycle are some of the companies that offer interactive exercise programs (usually through an internet subscription) for aerobic exercise using bikes, treadmills, ellipticals or rowing machines.

7. Fitness Club Membership
8. Personal Trainer Gift Certificate or Home Virtual Trainers

This can be an opportunity for someone to either get the proper advice from a professional to begin a fitness program or to revamp and tune up an old stale program. Word of mouth is a good way to find a reputable certified trainer.

Peloton – ($2,495 bike, $3,495 treadmill); Mirror Exercise – ($1,495); Tonal ($3,995.) FightCamp – ($1,219.); Forme Studio ($2,495.)

9. Electronic Fitness Monitors or Wearable Tech Monitor

These devices use GPS technology to help the user track their activity to get more out of their exercise routines. They monitor activity, heart rate, distance, location, calories, and more. Some examples are:

10. Nutritional Counselor Gift Certificate

Sometimes you need professional help to get started and stay focused. Just as with a personal trainer, a qualified and licensed nutritional counselor will assist you in establishing a safe and effective program to meet your nutritional and dietary goals. Again, ask around to see who has a good reputation or who may be a good fit for the recipient of your gift.

These gifts can be purchased at most local sporting goods stores or on-line.

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. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice, located in Scranton and Clarks Summit, and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, check out our exercise forum!