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Living Well

Health and wellness tips from Indiana University

Living Well tips for April discuss the following topics:

Jogging and knee pain
PFOA exposure and nonstick cookware
Why candy tobacco isn't so sweet

Avoiding flat tires. Knees can be compared to tires, said John Schrader, a licensed athletic trainer and clinical professor in IU Bloomington's Department of Kinesiology. The cartilage that cushions the bones inevitably wears away, particularly with rigorous exercise and imperfect biomechanics, and it cannot be restored without experimental surgical procedures. Unlike tires, knees don't come with known mileage limits, which is why the knees of some joggers give out in their 30s while other joggers run into their 60s or later. Knee pain can discourage new joggers, as well, from giving it a chance. Schrader said joggers should not run on bone pain (he notes that "pain" is subjective). If the pain feels like it involves muscles or tendons, it could be from delayed-onset muscle soreness and not injury. He said any pain that lasts for 72 hours should be examined by a professional.

Schrader offered these knee-friendly tips for new joggers:

  • A health assessment is a good idea for most people and imperative for people who have not been exercising regularly or have certain health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. Such an assessment should examine blood chemistry and consider heart health. This could include a stress test, which would determine how strenuous a workout is recommended and identify target heart rates.
  • Begin with several weeks of walking. This lets bones adapt to the additional stress from the impact and it lets joints get used to the motion.
  • Buy good shoes. They help absorb the ground force so it does not all go into the bones. Shoes that fit well help stabilize the ankle, reducing the risks of ankle injuries and assisting good running form, which helps the knees. Running shoes should only be used for running. They also should be replaced roughly every 300 miles to maintain their shock absorbency.
  • Cross-training helps reduce the stress on joints by providing different activities that use the joints differently -- reducing repetitive joint motion that could wear down specific areas of cartilage. Examples of good cross-training activities, which could be worked into weekly exercise plans, include swimming, walking, water jogging and elliptical machines.
  • Consider your weight. Excess weight increases stress on the bones and joints and can result in knee and ankle pain.
  • Consider your muscle strength. Good muscle tone and strong muscles help keep joints in good position during exercise.

Tips for veteran and new joggers:

  • Consider varying your running surfaces and directions on circular routes so wear, tear and stress is distributed more evenly throughout the joint surfaces and bones. Roads, for example, typically have a slight pitch that positions one leg higher than the other and can isolate stress. Running on sidewalks and streets is harder on the legs than running on earth.
  • Examine your posture with this simple assessment: Stand in front of a full-length mirror. You should be able to draw a line from the most prominent bones on your hips down through the knee caps to the second toes on your feet. If you cannot, this means you may be prone to injury because of abnormal body mechanics. This could affect your running by causing concentrated stresses on bones or joints, creating inflammation.
  • Keep a log of your running so you know when to replace your shoes.
  • Step back and ask whether your jogging is becoming an obsession or addiction at the expense of eating, family time and other priorities.
  • Make sure you're well hydrated before you run -- water is important for energy production and temperature regulation and is also a major component of cartilage.
  • Limit caffeine, which intensifies pain and reduces hydration.

Post-exercise knee pain may be related to knee irritation or inflammatory, especially if the knee did not hurt while running. If this is the case, a cold pack or cold compress could help -- heat could make it worse.

Benefits from jogging? These include: Stress relief and other emotional boosts; weight control; important cardiovascular benefits -- jogging has been shown to improve the balance of good and bad cholesterol and triglycerides; important bone health benefits -- this weight-bearing exercise can make bones denser and stronger; less pain -- a recent 14-year study found that older joggers who ran consistently during the study experienced less musculoskeletal pain. Jogging also requires no special facility or gear other than clothes and running shoes, and workouts can be shorter than other forms of exercise.

Schrader can be reached at 812-856-4905 and schrade@indiana.edu. Top

Grab the olive oil, not the PFOA. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked U.S. companies earlier this year to greatly reduce public exposure to prefluorooctanoic acid, a toxic chemical in Teflon. PFOA is persistent in the environment, found at very low levels in wildlife and in the blood of the general U.S. population. According to EPA, PFOA has caused developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals. While EPA states it does not have any indication that the public is being exposed to PFOA through the use of Teflon-coated or other trademarked nonstick cookware (see http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/), Diane Henshel, an associate professor at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said the public should be concerned. "I would recommend that people not use Teflon products for household use. If you do, it's going to introduce something into your body that has the potential to cause adverse effects when it's not necessary," she said. "Everything breaks down with time, and those coatings are going to be more likely to break down as they are being scraped, which happens in cooking situations, or when they are being used to heat something that could promote the breakdown of acids such as those in tomatoes, wine or alcohols. Oils also absorb Teflon and its breakdown products. Under ideal laboratory conditions, Teflon is very slow to degrade, but no one would ever call a cooking situation an ideal lab situation."

  • What to do in the kitchen? "Olive oil is a good alternative to Teflon because it's the healthiest of the oils," said Henshel, who focuses on sublethal health effects of environmental pollutants. "Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned 'pour a little in the pan and start cooking'"?

To speak with Henshel, contact Jenny Cohen at 812-855-6802 and jercohen@indiana.edu. Top

The bitter truth about candy tobacco. Candy and gum that resemble tobacco products undermine nationwide efforts to prevent tobacco use among youth, said Desiree Goetze, a researcher with the Indiana Prevention Research Center at Indiana University Bloomington. "Despite all the efforts of prevention professionals and concerned parents to dissuade children from using tobacco products, candy stores in malls and neighborhoods continue to stock these mirror-image candy cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco, pipes and cigars. Kids as young as 4 years old are getting the message that tobacco is cool and fun. Legislation to ban candy tobacco has been proposed on numerous occasions, but manufacturers continue to produce these goods that desensitize children to an addictive carcinogen," Goetze said.

Researchers from the IPRC offered the following tips for parents who wish to limit their child's access to candy tobacco products:

  • Be aware there are many types of candy tobacco products including chocolate cigars and licorice pipes.
  • Popular candy stores in malls tend to sell candy tobacco products. These products are typically placed on the lowest shelf in reach of small children.
  • If you find your child using candy tobacco or asking about it, this is a good opportunity to talk about the negative effects of tobacco use.
  • Let store managers know your concerns about candy tobacco products.
  • If your child picks up the product, help the child realize that if they really just want bubblegum, there are many other better choices.

Goetze can be reached at 812-855-1237 and dgoetze@indiana.edu

The IPRC is operated by the Indiana University Department of Applied Health Science and School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. It is affiliated with the department's Institute for Drug Abuse Prevention. Top

EDITORS: Living Well is based on Indiana University faculty research, teaching and service. "Living Well Through Healthy Lifestyles" is the guiding philosophy of IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In keeping with that philosophy, this tip sheet offers information related to both physical and mental well-being. Faculty in other IU schools and departments also contribute their expertise.

For assistance with these tips, contact Tracy James, IU Media Relations, at 812-855-0084 and traljame@indiana.edu, or Elisabeth Andrews, IU Media Relations, at 812-856-3717 and ecandrew@indiana.edu.