Fit for Life

Fitness is usually identified as a good part of physical, or bodily, health. It's time we redefined it as an activity that unites our mind, body, soul, and spirit

ExercisingA sound mind in a sound body. Does the aphorism ring a bell?

To have a sound mind, you need to have a sound body, and vice versa. In other words, a body that is fit and a mind that is strong make balance and wellbeing a reality.

What is mind and body fitness you may well ask. You have a point.

The fact is: many, nay most of us, who want to get into shape do not often realise that there is more to fitness than well-toned muscles and/or losing weight.

Let's look at the idea in detail. As we all know, there's no dearth of exercise programmes and gyms that celebrate perfection of the human body. This is now a major industry in its own strength, what with the idea of fitness also being a part of any regular weight management plan.

Mind, body, spirit

Blame it on technological advance, or the advent of wonder gadgets, and resources, our culture seems to have lost its link as regards the interconnectedness between our body, mind and spirit. In addition, we do not seem to relate how each has the power to affect the other as our ancients, including our grandparents, thought.

It is, therefore, imperative that we begin to cultivate devotion, or passion, for a new fitness movement that can help us go ahead with the concept of physical fitness, or bodily health, as being no different from mental fitness.

The two are, let it be highlighted, not separate; they are interconnected. The two in unison also represent optimal health and wellbeing - because, if one of them goes off balance, there is loss of equilibrium.

Bringing them together and cultivating harmonious balance is what wellbeing is all about - this also marks the beginning of a lifelong programme of good fitness and optimal mind, body, soul, and spiritual, health.

How do we achieve this idea? Whatever your form of exercise - yoga or aerobics, strength training, or running - our bodies are made to move. When we move we feel good, active, and energetic. It is, therefore, natural for us to feel vibrant when we integrate regular physical activity in our life, with relaxation techniques such as meditation, visualisation, good relationships, harmony at work and home, and so on.

When we do this we will only move closer to optimal mind, body, and soul fitness.

Weighty issues

What if you think you are on the heavier side, or overweight, a common problem today? It is not that you are unfit, if you are a bit overweight, even if the definition of being fit in terms of wellbeing becomes complex. According to new research, fat and active is said to be better than thin and laidback.

What does this mean? That if you improve your mind-body connection for better mind and body fitness, it is not necessary for you to go to a gym. What is important is you need to know what suits your requirement best. In other words, you need to choose realistic fitness options that will work for you.

Here's how you can go about, to begin with:

You should define exercise as any activity that unites your mind and body and reduces your stress level. The reason is simple. As we all know, high levels of stress have been linked to weight gain - thanks to emotional eating. The best thing to do is to embark on activities that are enjoyable and relatively simple to do. Only then will you stick to any exercise plan.

Don't be too ambitious with your exercise plan just as well. Know what you can expect from yourself. Think of your goals. Consider this: is a 20-30 minute exercise plan on a treadmill good enough for you at your age, or in your life? Be practical, because if you are not, your expectations may end in failure.

You can always think of some yoga, stretching exercises, or aerobics, as an ideal part of your exercise programme - or, 20 minutes' exercise on a bicycle. You'll succeed.

Stick to a plan

The point is developing an exercise plan that fits your lifestyle. Remember: your desire is also as important as doing exercise and sticking to a regimen.

Here's why - it is evidenced that long-term weight loss and maintenance of health and wellbeing are possible when you stick to a fitness routine rather than just what a given routine covers. Research clearly indicates that you ought to have a routine that is moderate and enjoyable. This, experts say, is likely to lead to long-term benefits, and preservation of health that you are looking for.

It is also best that you avoid thinking about full exercise, or no exercise at all - they are two extremes. They don't work! Don't also jump on to the fitness bandwagon, or stay put for a while, or just give up.

The inference is simple; also practical. You need to adapt your fitness goals to your preferences.

Here is a simple way of doing it. Know yourself; whether you are the morning type, or the evening sort. You can go to the gym when it suits your frame of mind. Also, remember, that it is not mandatory to join a gym to keep fit.

There are scores of people that keep fit at home - doing their own type of exercise - a bit of stretching, followed by some aerobic activity, or rebounding exercise on a mini-trampoline while watching TV, listening to music, or chirping of birds. Either way, any exercise programme, singly or in combination, can provide immense benefits to your mind, body, and soul.

It's your call. Take it. Attend to it. Because, if you don't, time will not be on your side.

It is never too late - when it becomes late, you sure would have missed the bus.

Time it to your needs

What if you are the type that likes to be home in the evenings? No problem. Just think of what form/s of exercise you'd do at home.

You may quite easily consider going out for a 20-minute walk after dinner with your spouse, or kids - also, friends. This is an excellent way to keep fit.

If you are the gym type, and love the company of friends, and also a good chat, head for the gym.

Think of exercise in any which way you can, but remember to answer your inner call - the urge to keep fit, and don't give up on it.

Agreed that it is common for working parents to be far too preoccupied with work - they may not pay attention to keeping fit. Or, they get too deeply involved with their children's activities - or, food. This is a stressful situation, though you may not think of it as being stressful. If this is what you are into, take a look, and redefine your schedule. Get into a fitness activity of any form which you can fit into your daily schedule and bond with it.

Suppose you can't walk 20-30 minutes at one stretch. Not to worry. You can walk 10 minutes at intervals, may be at three different times during the course of the day - they cumulatively add up to 30 minutes!

Want to keep fit and lose weight? It is sometimes easier said than done. Weight loss takes time; it also demands patience and commitment. The point is: many people get demoralised because results emerge far too slowly than one would expect.

Back to the basics. You would, again, do well to remember that sticking to an exercise routine is the only way to physical and mental wellbeing.

Also, don't be obsessed with what you see on the weighing scale. Think of how you are doing on a given exercise plan. Do you enjoy it? Do you want to stick to it? Think whether or not it is helping you to reduce your stress and adrenaline levels - your irritation, anger, and urgency? If your answer is yes, you are doing well for yourself.

Fitness of mind, body and spirit, thereafter, is yours for the asking and also taking.

Things to do

Think of an exercise plan you will enjoy, or you'd stick to - take your time. Speak to your friends, trainers, and others. Refine their advice - be practical. You know your body best - its strengths and limits.

The most important thing is: it's not just what you do; it's how you do it!

Whatever the path of exercise you choose, make it a priority to get clearance from your physician/therapist before beginning any type of exercise routine. Your physician/therapist will offer you the best advice - what type of exercises you can do, and what you should avoid. Not all exercises suit everybody.

Your physician/therapist will also distil and clear your doubts as regards health and fitness, because you may have seen fitness programmes failing with some of your friends who may have tried losing weight in vain - to illustrate a common example.

We are not making sweeping generalisations — but, the fact is many of us may not have been successful with exercise, dieting and weight loss. In most instances, it is actually dieting that has been futile with us because many of us have not used it as an effective tool for fitness. Rather, we have thought of it as a quick-fix, or instant nirvana, for a fit body, which it is not.

It takes time to get results in any walk of life you may think of. This holds good for an exercise programme.

May be, the blame lies squarely on many of us that fail - because, we have a lurking tendency to separate fitness of mind and body.

The fact is - they are two sides of the same coin, and they hold the key to optimal health and wellbeing.

Synergy of balance

Pick up any newspaper/magazine, or flip channels on TV, and you're bombarded with health and fitness information.

This is not all. Articles and advertisements are designed to impart, also preach, about the state of fitness and health, and what we all should do.

We want you to stop, and think for a moment.

How do you determine your current fitness and wellbeing levels? Is your physician/therapist happy with your fitness levels?

Or, what do you yourself think about your wellbeing level?

Now, the big question: are they - fitness and wellbeing levels - one and the same?

Answer: they are not one and the same, yet they rely heavily on each other to keep you healthy.

The point is - it seems that as we advance in one area, we lose ground in others. This need not be so. We should all aim at reaching a position of responsibility, where we combine our physical health with our functional, psychological, and spiritual, health. This will help add extra years to our life.

However this may be, being fit and being well are totally different conditions. Your wellbeing is dependent upon your mind, body, relationships, work-life balance, your immune system, and what diet, vitamins, supplements, and nutrition you provide for your body.

The fact also is: fit people can sometimes be unwell. And, healthy people can sometimes be unfit. However, when you combine the best in what you wish to do, and also use sound principles based on healthy living, exercise, and good eating habits, you attain a state of balance where you are both fit and well.

To draw a parallel - the Indian concept of prana, or the Chinese idea of yin and yang. Put simply, the idea upholds the balance that must exist in the whole - a balance that relies strongly on balancing our physical, mental, and spiritual health.

So, there we are! In evaluating our wellbeing goals, and state of our being, our mental capacity for continued learning, teaching, and experiencing should be our top priority. Mental alacrity comes from continued use of the mind to learn, communicate, and think. Because, the benefit of preserving our mental resources is felt even longer than the benefit of physical wellbeing? You are right.

What about the overall benefits of continued wellbeing? Well, it relates to peace of mind that comes from knowing your body is in good shape, and being prepared to manage whatever comes along. It is an invaluable asset.

To be able to determine that you've spent your day sensibly, and invested in yourself is a genuine achievement. This, in other words, means the benefits you derive by adding 20-30 minutes of exercise, or any form of physical activity, giving time to yourself, your relationships, meditation, good nutrition, are enormous.

Road to Good Health

By MAHESH Jukar

Being healthy isn't just a matter of not being ill. It is about actively getting the most out of your life.

Knowing what you want to achieve is essential if you are to plan a programme for a healthier, fitter lifestyle. For example, your goals could be:

  • Losing weight
  • Getting fit
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Improving your game of tennis/squash/badminton
  • Climbing stairs without getting out of breath
  • Being able to de-stress
  • Increasing energy levels
  • Cutting down - or, better giving up - on cigarettes and alcohol.

Whatever your goals are, set yourself realistic targets, and be determined to achieve them.

What is fitness

Physical fitness is often defined as the condition that results from your lifestyle — a lifestyle that leads to the development of optimal levels of cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and flexibility as well as achievement and maintenance of ideal body weight.

Lifestyle factors, in fact, significantly contribute to more than half of the annual deaths in the United States alone. Common aberrations in a healthy lifestyle include drinking, smoking, lack of physical activity, stress and a diet rich in fats. All these lead to ailments such as overweight, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and cancer.

Active lifestyle

Physical activity improves the functioning of the heart, lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, helps control diabetes and provides an outlet for negative emotions such as anger, frustration and irritability. Put simply, it promotes restful sleep - the best form of meditation.

Overweight/obesity

Apple versus pear-shaped bodies.

Body fat is stored in different regions of the body, and the pattern of its distribution can alter your health risks for obesity. For example, excess abdominal fat or apple-shaped [android] obesity is associated with increased risk of heart disease, whereas weight gain in the hips and thighs or pear-shaped [gynoid] obesity does not have the same magnitude of risk.

Genetic factors

Owing to genetic reasons, men are more prone to storing fat in the abdominal region; women in the hips and thighs. Also, an increase in certain enzymatic activity causes some individuals to store more fat in certain areas.

Diet plus exercise

Diet and exercise is one ideal way to lose weight. A sound weight-loss programme should include -

  • Decreased fat consumption
  • Portion control
  • Palatable food choices
  • High fibre
  • Adequate nutrition
  • An active lifestyle
  • Consistent, sensible eating and exercise habits.

Nutrition plan, key to good health

A healthy, well-balanced diet should include carbohydrates, proteins, fats and plenty of water. Carbohydrates [grains, vegetables, legumes] must make 55-60 per cent of our diet, proteins [milk, eggs, meat, fish, sprouts] 15 per cent, and fats [oils, butter] 25-30 per cent. Fat is essential as it helps in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K. Proteins are essential for repairing tissues; carbohydrates serve as fuel for energy. Fat also serves as a fuel source.

Exercise

Stress, exhaustion and inactivity make us feel tired. Feeling persistently fatigued can place physical and mental strain on the body. This eventually slows the body down and results in a weakened immune system, disturbed sleep, and weight gain. On the other hand, regular exercise helps to eliminate excess fat, it creates a lean body and boosts energy levels. The better the condition we are in, and the more the protection we give our muscles and joints, the better our quality of life.

To keep our bodies fit, tuned and functioning efficiently, we have to make a determined effort to be active.

Select your exercise routine

The key to staying consistent with exercise is to select an exercise programme that is enjoyable - one that fits with your personality, lifestyle, and fitness goals.

Forms of exercise

Cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise burns calories, promotes blood circulation and strengthens the heart. A low-impact routine that places minimum stress on the joints is safe and effective. Good choices include walking, swimming and cycling [20-30 minutes, preferably 5-6 days a week].

Strength training. Weight-bearing exercises play an important role in maintaining bone density and keeping the body strong. An effective routine would include exercises that target the major muscle groups of the upper, mid- and lower-body. Good choices include weight-bearing exercises like push-ups, sit-ups or working out on machines. Or exercising using dumbbells or resistance bands. Strength training should be included 2-3 days in a week for weight loss programmes.

Flexibility training. Flexibility exercises help to keep the body supple, flexible, and free from muscular stress. Good choices include yoga, pilates, stretching exercises and t'ai chi.

The human body is an amazing machine. If you put in the right amount of activity levels and eat wholesome food, you can truly start feeling fantastic. Remember: it's only when we look after our bodies well, can we empower ourselves rather than limit our options.

MIND-BODY Fitness Healing From Within

By SWATI Prakash

Our quest for optimal wellbeing should emerge from within. It should also include a natural balance or pure state of being.

In truth, all is well and always will be. We only have to reach our deepest place to find this essential truth. Do we have to create a state of balance and harmony? Perhaps not! Instead we can find it. Within us. The moment we become aware of the natural balance and harmony within us we know we are well.

Take a moment to be with your breath. The moment we become "aware" of our own breathing we find it to be more relaxed, more natural, more harmonious. With this, we meditatively reach a state of inner peace and calm - and, at ease with "who we are."

Disease, on the contrary, is a state of not being at ease. In our innermost state of being, we find we are always at ease, no matter what may happen on the outside. This is found when we reach that part of us which is "Perfect" and always remains the same. We could call this innermost layer our Divine Self.

We often use meditative techniques to reach and heal through this self.

As human beings, we find that we also have many other layers that cover our innermost Divine Self. In simple terms, I can describe them as follows:

  • The "Soular" self is the self that has carried numerous memories from one lifetime to another to add to the sum total of our experience. To reach and heal through this layer we often apply techniques such as Reincarnation Therapy, or Past Life Regression Therapy
  • The "Astral" self is that layer of our self that is associated with psychic states usually active in our dreams and also in out-of-body [OBE] experiences. To reach and heal through this layer we use techniques such as Reiki, Shamanism, "dream-working" and working with spirit guides
  • The "Emotional" self is the layer that is associated with our several feelings, usually love-based or fear-based. The healing of this layer generally happens through loving compassion, forgiveness, stress therapy, Emotional Freedom Techniques, and therapeutic counselling
  • The "Mental" self is associated with thinking and reasoning. Healing at this layer can involve psychiatric interventions, cognitive therapies, positive thinking and Neuro-Linguistic Programming [NLP]
  • Our "Sexual" self is associated with expression of our sexuality. We can heal this layer through sexual education and therapy. This may sometimes involve healing sexual abuse and creating healthy sexual habits.
  • Finally, the "Physical" self. This is the outermost layer of our being. It is associated with our physical bodies. The healing at this layer is most frequently achieved through exercise, and various allopathic and alternative therapies that work directly through the physical body — for e.g., bodywork.

An awareness of our holistic self and all our layers, where healing takes place, prepares us to receive the powerful healing from the innermost level of our being.

It is, after all, the innermost self which is responsible for manifestation of all that we are. The awareness that our inner self knows everything and is the source that creates everything is great healing in itself. Being aware of this reality leads to a shift in consciousness from outside to within, with or without the use of symbols and tools.

It is also through the natural process of meditation and awareness can we reach our true Self, and allow healing to flow from the deepest place within us to the outside - reaching each layer of our being and awakening them to harmony and balance.

This is not a miracle cure. It is a way of life and of "Being" itself.

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Rajgopal Nidamboor
Rajgopal Nidamboor, a trained physician, is a writer, commentator, and author. In a career spanning 25 years, Nidamboor has published over 2,000 articles, on a variety of subjects, two coffee table books, an E-book, and a primer on therapeutics, aside from an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy.

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