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Adam S. Bright, MD

For Athletes and Runners

I am passionate about 3 things in life: My family, my patients/career, and running. I currently exercise about 12 hours a week. The majority of my exercise is running, but I also think it is important to include cross training (which for me, is weight lifting and tire pulls and cycling and core workouts). Cross training improves athletic performance without increasing the risk of over-training in your primary sport.

Regardless of whether you enjoy exercise or not, I think it is important to exercise for your long term health. Exercising outdoors has proven to benefit us more than indoors, and lowers our stress levels and our risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes. Studies have shown that individuals who live near a park are more charitable to their neighbors and that the entire neighborhood then has lower crime levels. It is for this reason that when I was President of the Florida Orthopedic Society that I held our Annual Meeting here in Sarasota and had the surgeons attending and our community build a park instead of going fishing. I invite you to come visit the $250,000 park we built on the legacy trail at Laurel Park (509 Collins Road, Nokomis, FL 34275), which incorporates fitness stations along a play trail through the woods. Each fitness station has something for children, adults, and the handicapped.

When developing a fitness program, it is important to understand that we have two distinctly different muscle types: aerobic and anaerobic. We should try to exercise both of these muscles. The aerobic exercises have been proven to help us live longer and build new blood vessels to our heart and muscles. The anaerobic muscle fibers help us have power to get up a ladder or sprint or get out of a chair or lift a suitcase. To exercise the aerobic ones, the exercise should be sustained over at least 30 minutes but the intensity should be moderate (so you could still talk to someone while exercising). The anaerobic exercises (such as sprints at the track, or lifting weights) should be in repetitions that are harder.

We should also strive to include some exercises that involve weight bearing to prevent osteoporosis. Running and weight lifting and other exercises when you are upright helps build bones. I was surprised to learn that elite swimmers and cyclists have actually been proven to have below normal bone mass due to lack of weight bearing exercise.

Exercise programs should be designed to have harder days and easier days, and also have a minimum of one day "off" from using a particular muscle group to avoid overuse/injury. Even in the best training programs with the best trainers and the best athletes, injuries can and still do occur. It is important to ease into a new exercise program and proceed cautiously, and to listen to our body. When I/we first start to get a pain, it is far better to rest and use ice than it is to try to push through the pain and risk further injury. As we push the envelope for improved performance and train with more intensity, the risk of injury increases.

One of the most popular myths is that running leads to arthritis of the knee. There is compelling scientific data (65 articles) about running and arthritis, and none of them have shown that running leads to arthritis. Unfortunately, arthritis does occur in most of our knees as we age, and it is much easier for us to blame our ailments on our past work activities or excessive exercise that it is for us to accept the fact that we are getting older.

Although the risk of heart problems in our future is less with aerobic exercise, it is also more likely that a heart issue such as death or heart attack will occur during our exercise. Although I am a physician, I am NOT an internal medicine or cardiologist specialist, and it is important for you to discuss exercise with your personal physician before pursuing an intense program.

I hope the above advice keeps you healthy and fit! However, if you are having a pain or issue that is not improved with rest and time, then I would enjoy the opportunity to treat you. I have been the team doctor for North Port High School since the school opened in 2000, and have also been the orthopedic doc for the Sarasota Marathon and Half Marathon since it started in 2006, and the team physician for Riverview High School and Cross Country since 2009. Because I have completed more than 35 marathons, numerous ultra-marathons, numerous triathlons, and numerous adventure races, it is likely that I can personally relate to your sports injury.

Below are links to local clubs to find like-minded athletes, and to parks and trails: