Get into shape
Preliminary data from a WHO study suggests that inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle is a leading cause of death and disability. On the occasion of World Health Day, WHO asks people to `Move for Health', its theme for this year, say Dr. V. MOHAN and R. PRADEEPA.
Make the most of the outdoors.
TODAY is World Health Day. The theme chosen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) this year is "physical activity" and is being promoted through the slogan "Move for Health". Inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle is one of the 10 leading global causes of death and disability and it is a fact that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are now more common than communicable diseases all over the world. The rapid rise of NCDs such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory conditions and cancer is a major global health challenge. The root cause? Rapid changes in lifestyle and associated risk factors which include increasing use of tobacco, an unhealthy diet, alcohol consumption and most importantly, physical inactivity.
Regular physical activity is an important part of an effective weight maintenance programme, as it improves general health and is safer and most cost-effective than the medicines and therapies thrust on the consumer today. It does not matter what type of physical activity it is sports, planned exercise, household chores, garden work, or work-related tasks all forms are beneficial.
Unfortunately, technological advancement has lead to a more sedentary life style when compared to the past when a fair amount of physical activity was common. Walking and cycling are passé as people travel in cars and buses. Microwave ovens and mixers have replaced manual cooking and grinding. People are addicted to the television and Internet and rather than socialising, they now "meet" friends over the telephone or through e-mail. Hence one should make an effort to find ways to move one's body. Anything that moves one's limbs is not only a fitness tool, it's also a great stress buster.
Clinical and epidemiological studies have demonstrated that regular exercise helps prevent and control diabetes mellitus, reduces the risk of death due to heart disease and stroke, aids in reducing weight and the risk of colon cancer, strengthens bones, muscles and joints, enhances the immune system, increases stamina, lowers blood pressure, aids digestion, reduces serum lipid levels, improves blood circulation, provides the skin a healthy glow and may add a few years to life.
There are also psychological benefits and most studies suggest a positive relationship between physical fitness and mental achievement. Exercise reduces stress, the level of anxiety, alleviates depression, enhances quality of sleep and improves a person's quality of life. Yoga, a holistic form of exercise can be beneficial to one's exercise regimen as it helps to alleviate back pain and various other medical problems besides providing relaxation and increased energy. It helps one become more physically and emotionally fit.
Can physical activity prevent NCD's?
Diabetes Mellitus: Exercise is important in the prevention and control of diabetes. Exercise helps in losing weight, which in turn improves glucose tolerance. Exercise can lower blood sugar and improve the body's ability to use glucose. With regular exercise, the amount of insulin needed decreases. Exercise can also help reverse the resistance to insulin that occurs as a result of being overweight. When combined with a meal plan, physical activity has the ability to control Type two diabetes often without the need for other medications. Exercising muscles consume sugar, which is drawn out of the blood, even with very little insulin present.
Cardiovascular diseases: Regular physical activity decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in general and coronary heart disease mortality in particular. It also prevents or delays the development of high blood pressure. Exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension by increasing the elasticity of blood vessels.
Asthma: Asthmatic individuals should be encouraged to have a programme of regular physical exercise that's beneficial to both their physical health and emotional well-being. Even few minutes can open up constricted lungs. The key is to select an environment that will avoid triggering asthma.
Cancer: The lymph system fights cancer cells and removes toxins; thus it is essential that it is performed at optimum ability when one has cancer. Exercise increases the flow of lymphatic fluid and also increases the number of white blood cells, which fight cancer. Researchers think that exercise boosts the immune system so that it can fight tumour development better.
Who should exercise and how to start?
Everyone can exercise. Persons with heart problems, diabetes or other chronic health problems should consult their physician before beginning a vigorous exercise regime. Experts recommend 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity five days a week and some muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. However, if you are unable to achieve this, you can gain substantial health benefits by accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a day, in two or three sessions. Don't push yourself too far or too fast. Go slow and live longer!
How to start
Physical activity helps reduce body fat by building or preserving muscle mass and improving the body's ability to use calories. When physical activity is combined with proper nutrition, it can help control weight and prevent obesity. The heavier the person, the greater the number of calories expended during exercise.
Here are few practical tips for those who cannot do regular exercise park your vehicle further away and walk; climb stairs; don't take the escalator; stand periodically; don't sit too often; walk your dog; wash clothes or dishes instead of using machines; bend and stretch whenever possible and look for exertion, not comfort. Remember: if you think you don't have the time for exercise, sooner or later you'll have to find time for sickness!
There are hundreds of excuses not to exercise. Too busy, too tired, too bored, no room for equipment, no place to exercise, can't afford club fees, bad health; the list is endless. Excuses provide an easy way out to avoid exercising. The faster you work towards eliminating those excuses, the closer you'll be to living a healthier, more active life. Eventually, exercise won't be a chore it will be the reward your body's been craving for.
If time is your enemy, re-evaluate your schedule.
Remember you don't have to exercise all at once. Break your workout into two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions and do them throughout the day. If you're too tired to exercise, get moving. Fatigue can actually be caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise will help jump-start your body. Start slowly, and over time, exercise will increase your energy level while decreasing fatigue. One can tailor an exercise programme to suit one's life style.
No place to exercise? Find one. You don't need a park, a playground or beachside to exercise. You can work out around the house, on the terrace or even a small room where spot jogging can be done. It is not the place that matters but the consistency with which you do it.
Aches and pains? Reprogram your thinking. Initially, while starting an exercise programme, there might be some pain , which is due to accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles. In due course the pain will disappear as one follows a proper exercise regime. However, if any exercise hurts too much you should stop and consult your doctor.
The writers are with the Madras Diabetic Foundation, Chennai.
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