As Written by :DR GITA MATHAI
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Somehow the spirit of the New Year affects everyone, including cynics. It is time for all those resolutions that will change your life and make you a better person. After all, before you “heal the world (and) make it a better place,” you have to change “the man in the mirror”.
The changes must be effected on a war footing. India is already known as the world’s diabetic and ischaemic heart disease capital. The statistics are alarming. Unless we get going right now, many of us will not live to see our grandchildren. And even those who survive may be too sickly to enjoy them.
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IN GOOD COMPANY: Join a group if exercising alone seems uninspiring
Recommendations for fitness have increased over the last five years from walking half an hour three or four times a week to one hour every day. However, a one-hour stroll in bathroom slippers will not do the trick — walking or jogging should be at a steady pace where conversation is not possible. At least four to five kilometres have to be covered in 60 minutes. If you feel you can walk for an hour in the evening as well, your health may improve further.
At times, taking walks outdoors may be dangerous, especially for women. There are no nearby walkers’ parks. Don’t lose heart — it’s possible to get almost similar benefits by spot jogging. This means standing in one spot and running vigorously, moving the arms as well. You must wear jogging shoes. The right foot has to hit the ground 45 times in one minute. Gradually, try to work up to 45 minutes a day. It is less effective than a using a treadmill or running on the road as there is no forward propulsion, but it definitely has health benefits and is better than doing nothing.
Jogging or walking helps reduce weight, trim the waistline and tone the body, controls blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and decreases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, fracture and mental disease. Depression and insomnia are far less. Walkers have also been shown to live to a healthy, mentally active old age in greater numbers than their inactive counterparts.
People are always asking for a magic pill for health, a single ingredient to prevent disease and treat all illnesses……. Regular speed walking or jogging is an activity that provides an answer to all these.
Diabetes, hypertension and ischaemic heart disease develop in susceptible genetically predisposed individuals when the environment is right. Even if the disease appears inevitable, the onset of these diseases can be delayed 10 years or more by maintaining a body mass index (BMI) of 23. This can be calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the height in metre squared. The only variable in this formula is the weight, as adult height does not change.
Walking or running alone will not help maintain your BMI. Diet has to be factored in by eating 20 calories per kilogram of expected weight. This, combined with jogging or walking, will help maintain your BMI. Calories are hidden everywhere — a cube of chocolate means 60 calories, a ladoo 280 calories and a plate of bhel puri 400 calories! Each teaspoon of sugar in juice adds 20 calories, 100gm of peanuts 550 calories and a teaspoon of oil around 50 calories.
A good way to chart progress is to maintain a diary and record the kilometres covered daily along with the approximate number of calories consumed. The weight should be recorded once a week.
It takes a negative balance of 3,500 calories to lose half a kg of body weight. This cannot be achieved by dieting alone. Walking or jogging builds up the calf muscles. It also increases the BMR (basal metabolic rate) so that more calories are utilised even at rest.
If exercising alone is a bother, get yourself good company. I am a member of groups such as Runners for Life, Chennai Runners and Chain Reaxion. I participated in the Chennai Half Marathon and two 47-km cycling events. To my pleasant surprise, I found a group of enthusiastic young people determined to propagate a healthy lifestyle. I also discovered that contrary to common belief, age is not a bar. Nor does running cause your knees to develop osteoarthritis!
Take the example of 97-year-old Fauja Singh who goes around the world running marathons. He is the Adidas poster boy for their slogan “nothing is impossible”.
So as we move into 2010, let us make the figure our walking milestone and cover 2,010 km in 365 days