Fit Bits: Good News For Knees

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Good News For Knees
Fact: Your knees dislike skiing, especially if you've suffered an injury that has jarred or loosened the joint. While modern medicine has allowed an increasing number of skiers to rebound from traumatic knee injuries, the normal rigors of skiing can take their toll over time.

Dr. Michael Catalano, director of the Center for Fitness Medicine in Boulder, Colo., explains: "Continued heavy athletic pressure to a destabilized joint can cause cartilage breakdown, and ultimately lead to chronic joint pain, stiffness and inflammation."

The answer? Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. These nutritional supplements assist cartilage¿the cushioning that allows joints to glide smoothly¿in repairing itself. Three members of the men's U.S. Ski Team began using glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in late 1997, the year they hit the market. Today well over half of the team takes the supplements regularly. Ron Kipp, exercise physiologist and director of athlete preparation for the team, recommends them not only for injuries, but also to ease tendonitis pain and prevent cartilage breakdown.

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are sold over-the-counter in capsule or tablet form. One pill combining the two is recommended for maximum efficiency (the Ski Team takes Cosamin DS by Nutramax). The suggested dose is two to three pills daily, adding up to 1,500 mg of glucosamine and 1,200 mg of chondroitin sulfate. Beware: They come at a price¿$30-$90 per bottle, depending on strength and size. As with other supplements, possible long-term effects are still unknown. Consult with your physician before taking them.

Beat The Flu
If you want to avoid the flu this season, give up the sweets. An unbalanced diet, especially one with a high sugar intake, can weaken your immune system. That means you should think twice before grabbing a sweet snack between runs. In fact, the amount of sugar found in two cans of soda can decrease immune function by 50 percent for up to six hours, increasing your odds of getting sick. If you need an energy lift, carry dried fruit or grab some trail mix with nuts in the lodge. As a bonus, the fat and protein found in nuts provides a longer energy burn than the short spurt from the sugar found in soda or candy.