Fitness in a bottle — If only it could be that easy!

written by Nupur Agarwal

I once heard someone say that if exercise could be bottled, it would be the best selling potion at the local pharmacy! This seems true since a shocking one-third of American adults are obese. American kids are not far behind with around 17 percent of them overweight or obese. With a literacy rate of 99%, it comes as a surprise especially when much is written about the life threatening consequences of obesity. But I guess people choose to ignore all the warning signs and prefer to gorge on a 200 calorie hamburger more often than not. Research has shown that as weight increases to reach the levels referred to as “overweight” and “obesity”, the risks for the following conditions also increases:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

Owing to increased consumption of processed foods, fast foods, and sedentary lifestyle, even urban population in third world countries are drifting towards having a high Body Mass Index (BMI).

The key to maintaining a healthy BMI is not just to eat right, but also an increase in physical activity. A normal BMI does not mean that you can afford to be a couch potato. Having a healthy weight does not amount to you being fit. Your still have to be on your toes in an attempt to keep those joints well oiled and have a healthy heart.

You don’t have to train like a professional athlete to be physically fit! Just about 30 minutes of low-intensity physical activity, broken down in shorter intervals of 5-10 minutes over the day can do the trick. If done daily, they help lower your risk of heart disease. Such activities include pleasure walking, stair climbing, gardening, yard work, moderate to heavy housework, dancing and home exercise. More vigorous exercise can help improve fitness of the heart and lungs, which can provide even more consistent benefits for lowering heart disease risk.

Exercise can also offer other benefits, including strengthened muscles, increased flexibility, and stronger bones, which can help ward off the bone-thinning condition called osteoporosis. Regular activity also promises mental-health benefits, like relieving stress and anxiety. It can help you sleep better and renew your energy.

If nothing else, then all this extra effort does pay off when you look at the new you in the mirror!

If you have already had a heart attack, it is no excuse for you to hang your running shoes. Regular, brisk physical activity can help reduce your risk of having another heart attack. People who include regular physical activity in their lives after a heart attack improve their chances of survival. However do make sure that you consult your doctor to be sure you are following a safe and effective exercise program.

So basically, the more active you are, the more calories you’ll burn, which can help with weight loss. And exercise also promotes fat loss and builds muscle. This, in turn, increases your body’s metabolic rate, the rate at which you burn calories, even after you’ve finished exercising.

Weight loss by reducing your calorie intake without activity can have just the opposite effect: It can cause your body to break down muscle, which ultimately lowers your metabolic rate and makes losing weight even harder.

Like most things, exercising comes with potential risks. The most common risk in exercising is injury to the muscles and joints. This usually happens from exercising too hard or for too long – particularly if a person has been inactive for some time. Another one being heat exhaustion or stroke, if precautions are not taken on hot and humid days.

In some cases, people have died while exercising. Most of these deaths are caused by overexertion in people who already had heart conditions. In people under age 30, these heart conditions are usually congenital heart defects (heart defects present at birth). In people over age 40, the heart condition is usually coronary artery disease (the build-up of deposits of fats in the heart’s blood vessels).

Prevention is better than cure. You can avoid these injuries by taking proper precautions.

Try and build up your level of activity gradually over the weeks to come. It takes time for one to reach a certain fitness level. Try not to set your goals too high – otherwise you will be tempted to push yourself too far too quickly. When exercising, build up slowly to your target zone, and cool down slowly afterwards.

Exercising too much can cause injuries to joints, feet, ankles and legs. So don’t make the mistake of exercising beyond early warning pains in these areas or more serious injuries may result. Fortunately, minor muscle and joint injuries can be readily treated by rest and aspirin.

Make sure that you do not ignore warning for possible heart problems. Look out for pain or pressure in the left or mid-chest area, left neck, shoulder or arm during or just after exercising. Also, if you feel sudden light heartedness, cold sweat, pallor or fainting immediately contact your doctor.

Exercising outdoors on a hot and humid day requires you to be hydrated at all times. Drink lots of fluids, particularly water – before, during and after exercising. Try going out during the cooler and/or less humid parts of the day such as early morning or early evening after the sun has gone down. Watch out for signs of heat stroke – feeling dizzy, weak, light- headed, and/or excessively tired; sweating stops; or body temperature becomes dangerously high. The type of clothing you wear can cause dangerously high temperatures, possibly resulting in heat stroke. Stick to light, loose-fitting clothing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you’ve eaten a meal , avoid strenuous exercise for at least 2 hours. If you exercise vigorously first, wait about 20 minutes before eating.

Abusing your body can cost you a lot, not only in terms of doctor’s bills ,but also the age long negative effects it can have. Treasure your health and take good care of it before it’s too late!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nupur Agarwal