Exercise RIGHT

Exercise is fun and essential. It also works best in moderation, and when correctly done

Exercising in the gymYou always won prizes playing badminton in school. Thereafter, the thought of stretching oneself became a distant dream.

One fine day, you made up your mind not to delay getting into shape, and you took the vow to begin serious exercise again.

You had the muscles; all you needed to do was to tweak them just a bit - to get into shape.

Enough is enough, you thought too - because, your doctor, your mom, and girlfriend, were after you to stop being lazy. So, you joined a gym, and bought yourself a new pair of sneakers, T-shirts and shorts. You got up by the alarm clock, used weights, and the treadmill. The sweaty feel and adrenaline made you feel good again. You told everyone in your office about your "new life" animatedly.

Go slow and steady

It's only the following morning your muscles reminded you that they existed, just as much as your bones protested their sudden [mis]use, or overuse. You couldn't get out of bed without moaning.

What went wrong? Excess lactic acid produced due to sudden over-activity.

When lactic acid gets accumulated in your muscles, it leads to what is called DOMS [Delayed onset of muscle soreness], because -

  1. You didn't warm up
  2. You gave your body an overdose of impulsive, unusual muscular activity when you should've progressively increased your exercise bit-by-bit everyday - from the mild-to-moderate to the vigorous
  3. You should've gotten your body used to the idea of shaking off laziness by getting into the habit of walking daily, increasing the duration and distance by a few notches for a few days, before you took to weights in the gym
  4. You should've asked a professional trainer how to start afresh.

The worst part - your heart-lung [cardio-respiratory] system was not quite prepared for sudden, muscular activity.

In some people, sudden excessive exercise can lead to giddiness, palpitation, or chest pain. In fact, if a person is predisposed to heart trouble, sudden exercise can precipitate serious problems.

In fact, after age 35, a person, unused to regular exercise, should not embark on an exercise regime without a doctor's approval.

There is another worrying aspect. Exercise that is done by holding one's breath brings extra load on the heart. It's best to breathe in, and breathe out slowly, with the movements.

You should also avoid jerky movements. Such movements are, of course, best corrected by professionals.

Cooling down is as important as warming up, because the body needs to adjust to the slowing down of the heart which, with the exertion, pumps more rapidly.

Eat light before exercise

S Borkar, chief physiotherapist, P D Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, observes that a light breakfast before exercise is useful - this makes sure your sugar levels are satisfactory. She says: "Many people come to us after doing yoga. They stretch beyond the pleasant, bearable, or comfortable limit. For example, some do supine exercises, raising both legs simultaneously upwards, straining the back muscles. In extreme cases, this can lead to a prolapsed disc. Those with knee pain should also not squat or climb up or down the stairs, or sit and get up from the floor frequently."

She concludes: "Those who are recuperating from surgery must avoid vigorous work-outs unless cleared to do so by a doctor."

One more thing. Those who want to lose weight should remember to aim for a gradual loss of 6-8 kg in six months.

For those who believe that massage is a kind of exercise, it is advisable to use the services of a trained expert. Manipulation of the spine and neck can be disastrous in untrained hands.

If you're into weekend racquet sports, or any strenuous games, warming up with stretching exercises is just as important.

The caveat always is - you should do exercises that are recommended by a specialist. Else, your soft tissues are sure going to get sore and painful, and you will give up exercise even before you get back to doing it.

Benefits

Don't think that you are past your prime or time for exercise, or feel that you are not the right age for exercise. It's never too late to start exercising. Begin a walking programme to start with. Walking is the safest form of cardiac exercise. It works. Just look at the statistics. Four-five months of a regular walking programme is evidenced to bring your heart rates down in comparison to people who are inactive. This is a healthy sign.

A regular exercise programme will aid in weight loss, because being overweight or obese is going to put greater pressure on your circulatory system and the heart. Besides this, exercise strengthens the heart muscle. It improves the blood flow, reduces high blood pressure and improves HDL ["good"] cholesterol levels and lowers LDL ["bad"] cholesterol levels. Also, sustained and strong muscle contraction achieved by the body during exercise produces a metabolic by-product called lactic acid. Lactic acid is an excellent natural "chelating" agent. It "chelates" or flushes out the toxins and deposits from your body. However, for this good effect to happen, it is necessary for you to follow a regular exercise programme lasting for at least 20 minutes, 4-5 times a week.

It is not without sufficient reason that the British Heart Foundation reports "that people who do not exercise are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease as those who exercise on a regular basis." Most important - if people who exercise suffer a heart attack, their risk of dying from it, research also testifies, is half that of those who don't do exercise.

- Team CW

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