Revisiting the battle of the bulge

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I’d appreciate any direction you can give me about reducing the size of my stomach. It sticks out. I have been trying for more than a year to reduce it with exercise, but I am getting nowhere fast. I do 20 sit-ups, three times a day. My belt is the same size it was when I started. What am I doing wrong? — J.B.

 ANSWER: Your question appears with such frequency in my mail that I could use it every week. You attack abdominal girth in three ways: a change in posture, a reduction of calories and a program that strengthens abdominal muscles.

 An excessive inward curve of the lower back makes the abdomen stick out. Stand with your back against the wall. If you can fit your fist between the wall and your lower back, the lower back curves too far inward. Flatten it against the wall, and you’ll see your abdomen also flatten. You have to adopt this posture at all times, sitting, standing and walking. It will become a habit in time.

 Most people with this problem also need to reduce their calorie intake. Eating 500 less calories a day pares a pound a week from the body. The weight loss doesn’t come exclusively from the abdomen. It comes from all body-fat storage depots, but some of it does leave the abdomen. You have to decide how much weight you need to lose.

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 Abdominal exercises strengthen the abdominal muscles. They become a girdle, holding in your abdominal organs. What’s the best exercise? The sit-up with bent knees is a good one. Raising the head, neck and shoulder blades off the floor is the most important part of the exercise. Do this slowly.

 Another excellent abdominal exercise is the bicycle exercise. Lie on the floor with knees bent 45 degrees and feet off the floor. Your hands should be resting next to your head. Bring the right elbow and left knee together and then switch to left elbow and right knee.

 DEAR DR. DONOHUE: About 15 years ago, I was jogging in cold air. After about 10 minutes, I felt an aching in my trachea. I ignored the feeling and continued to jog.

 Today, while walking at a brisk pace on my treadmill, I felt the same ache. What’s going on with my windpipes? My age is 77. — L.B.

 ANSWER: I’m not sure if you are accurate in pinpointing the source of your pain to your trachea. Am I right in assuming you feel the pain in your upper chest? Any chest pain that occurs during exercise can be a sign of heart trouble. That’s especially true in people your age. I won’t sleep easily until you have your doctor check your heart.

 DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I plan to run a marathon next fall. It’s been a goal of mine for some time. I have been running for an hour a day on a treadmill. Now that the weather is changing I am going to start running outdoors. I want to be running for three hours by June.

 My question is premature, but I would like to know when to cut back on running before the actual race. — H.M.

 ANSWER: I’m not a marathoner, and I’m not a running coach. Any information I have on this topic I’ve gotten from other sources. You shouldn’t be running 20-mile runs for two weeks before the actual marathon. Good luck.

 DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My problem is that I am a world-class athlete. At age 47, I want to slow down. I have been working out since I was a youngster and have competed at the highest levels for several years. When I wake in the morning, my motor is already revved up and ready to go long distance. What can I do to slow down after having competed at high levels for so long? — W.S.

 ANSWER: Would that I had your problem. Your body will adapt to less exercise in no time at all.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.

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