Live Life Fighting Fit

Today, remaining physically active has become an uphill task. We have to work against a conspiracy hatched by cars, computers, televisions, remote controls and mobile phones. It is easy to get through the day with very little physical effort. In schools and colleges too, students seem to be demarcated into those who “study” and those who “play”. The first lot hope to further their careers because of intellectual ability, and the others aim for the “sports quota” available both in government service and in the private sector.

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Mood boosting and pain relieving chemicals are released during exercise

The competition is fierce and many parents discourage concentration in sports, as — unlike in academics — only a few hit the jackpot. This is a pity, because investing in fitness, like long-term deposits, eventually offers tremendous returns.

The terms physical activity and exercise are often loosely interchanged even though they mean different things. Body movements during the day, like walking upstairs or doing housework, expend calories and can be termed physical activity.

Exercise, on the other hand, is structured and involves continuous utilisation of muscle groups to increase endurance, improve health and maintain strength and flexibility.

A fit adult who exercises regularly usually functions on the physical level of a person 20 years younger. If you are physically fit,

You can usually carry out your daily activities and still have some energy left at the end of the day

Walk a mile without feeling breathless or developing leg cramps

Carry on a conversation while walking briskly

Weight tends to creep up with age and most of this increase is due to the deposition of fat. Regular exercise keeps a check on this. At the same time, it improves and elevates the mood and ensures a good night’s rest. A physically tired person is likely to fall asleep immediately and sleep soundly.

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Activity challenges the heart and strengthens it. It is thus able to pump blood with less effort. Any exercise ideally should increase the heart rate to 75 per cent of 220 minus your age. An efficient heart keeps the blood pressure within normal limits. Even if and when hypertension develops, it is easier to control. Exercise also helps to keep the coronary blood vessels patent, reducing the risk of heart attacks.

Exercise expends energy supplied by the body in the form of glucose. The blood glucose levels are lowered and this positively impacts metabolic disorders like diabetes. Control is better, dosages of insulin and medicines are reduced. However, the exercise has to be regular. Over exercising one day and then remaining inactive the next makes adjustment of medicines difficult. Sugar levels may rise and fall alarmingly. Exercise is not a substitute for a prescribed calorie restricted diabetic diet.

Energy for exercise is obtained from the stores of fat in the body. This lowers blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and helps to maintain a healthy ratio between the different types of body fat. This in turn prevents heart attacks and strokes.

Bones lose calcium and become osteoporotic with increasing age. This occurs in varying degrees in both men and women. Strengthening and weight bearing exercises combined with walking slows this process.

The spectre of cancer haunts everyone. Malignancy of the colon, rectum, uterus, prostate, breast and kidney are less in people who exercise regularly. That’s because exercise prevents obesity, a risk factor in these cancers.

Endorphins, beneficial pain and stress relieving chemicals, are released by muscles during continuous activity. This gives an endorphin “high” which is similar to starting the day with a snort of brandy.

The minimum required activity to maintain health is 30 minutes of walking, jogging, cycling or swimming at least six days a week. The ideal is an hour of the same activity seven days a week. But for most people sparing 30-40 minutes is difficult. Splitting the activity into three or four 10-minute stints offers 75 per cent of the benefit. Seventy per cent of the world population does not get enough physical activity.

Age is no bar. Even if you have never exercised, it is not too late to start. A study involving senior citizens (over the age of 80 years) demonstrated that a structured exercise programme increased their muscle strength by 110 per cent, walking speed by 12 per cent, stair climbing ability by 28 per cent. If you are an older person who has never exercised or has been sedentary for many years, it makes sense to have a medical evaluation before embarking on a self styled programme. Regular exercise workouts should include warm-up, workout and cool-down phases to reduce the possibility of injury like muscle fibre strain or rupture.

Start today, remember the Olympic motto and go “faster, further and higher”. AFTER ALL NO TIME FOR EXERCISE MEANS LOT OF TIME FOR DIFFERENT DISEASES.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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