With the fitness boom that has hit in the last few years, it has almost become a sin—for most people in metro cities—not to have at least one gym membership or to not consult at least one dietician for weight loss. Gone are the days when people took ‘pleasantly plump’ as a compliment and continued digging into their pastries. It is now the age of the svelte with people going to any lengths to fit into smaller sized clothes.
While it is great to be self-motivated and work towards a goal for your body, unfortunately, some of us take it to the next level. A level where fitness and health cease to matter and all that matters is the figures on the scales. Exercise is a must. However, I firmly believe that you should not think of it as a chore or a punishment. Each of us can find a way to enjoy and like it.
Take off the blinders
Too many of our goals are only centred on the weighing scale. So much, that even though you are getting fitter, a slight fluctuation of a kilo can make you feel that all your effort has gone futile. The body is not a machine; it has its own methods of functioning. If you subtract a few dietary calories and burn some more while exercising, it may not yield the same result all the time. Besides, weight is not the only accurate method for judging your health. Another way of finding out whether there are any changes is by your measurements i.e. the way your clothes are fitting you even though you may still weigh the same which indicates certain fat loss or a little muscle gain.
Choose something you like doing
So you hate exercise? How about choosing an activity that you actually like beyond the gym—whether it is dancing or swimming or playing tennis. Exercise does not need to be restricted to the gym, what you do need is regularity. If you are someone who needs a little push from time to time to prevent yourself from being lazy, sign up with a friend or make friends with someone who is self-motivated and someone who will pull you up if you find yourself faltering. Most of all, if you enjoy what you are doing the motivation will come naturally.
Obsessive exercising is often connected with eating disorders. It’s a reflection of people having distorted images about their bodies, say psychologists. It’s considered an alternative way of purging. While some people vomit what they eat, others spend all day adding up every calorie they eat and make it a point to burn off all those calories when working out. Moderate exercise increases the body’s immunity while too much exercise only stresses the body, thereby lowering your immunity. This could show up as knee/foot problems, injuries like stress fractures, osteoarthritis become more common. In case of women, as the body fat drops beyond a healthy level, oestrogen levels drop too. In the long run, this could lead to infertility and even osteoporosis.
Understand your food
Food is not only about calories. You have to meet your daily nutrient requirements too through your food in order to stay healthy and fit. Variety, and not cutting off all the foods you like, is the key to getting the best bargain from what you eat. You must maintain a record of what you eat daily so you know where exactly you are going wrong. This can help you become realistic about your mistakes.
Know your body
While moderate exercise is great for you on all counts i.e. health, appearance and relaxation, pushing yourself beyond limits can actually cause you serious injury and harm. Over-exercising can actually lower your immunity and make you feel tired and listless all the time and reduce your overall stamina instead of boosting it. You might have sleep problems and feel jittery and irritable all the time. So, read the signals of your body and learn to draw the line before you harm yourself.
Choose a good time
If you choose an odd time of the day to do workouts, you will probably miss it majority of the times or end up being irritated at the thought of exercise in the middle of a busy day. Plan your schedule so that you don’t miss the gym. Planning to go to the gym in the middle of a workday or just an hour before you have to be somewhere is not a great idea. Most of us are aware of our day’s schedules. Plan ahead, if you have a busy day ahead, finish your workout in the morning instead of waiting till the end of the day when it can be conveniently omitted.
Exercise is called ‘nature’s tranquiliser‘ as it has been shown to break up stress patterns in the body. Regular exercise helps us absorb and burn off the excess adrenaline. It helps the production of various hormones that assist us in dealing with stress. Exercise produces a feeling of mild euphoria, releasing body chemicals called ‘endorphins’, the feel happy hormones known to dull pain [also known as the ‘natural painkiller’].
Exercise can also act as an anti-depressant. People with extreme mood swings find that exercising regularly calms them and gives them a greater sense of stability. Exercising often puts that ‘spring in their step’ and they find they can cope with depression better. They also find themselves less depressed than usual. Scientists have found this to be due to a naturally produced chemical ‘phenyl ethylamine’ in the body linked to the regulation of physical energy, mood and attention.
So, the next time you put on your exercise shoes, keep in mind that feeling good about yourself and a sense of oneness with your body is actually the most important goal of exercise.