Sunday, March 3, 2013

Exercise – why and how to?
A preventive health measure

Unfortunately, there are some serious misconceptions about how exercise helps. The most popular notion is that it is required to reduce weight. This narrow vision hides the manifold benefits of exercise on body and mind. As a result of this wrong notion, many  persons who are either not interested in. reducing weight or have failed to reduce weight by exercising, do not exercise and deprive themselves of the manifold  benefits of exercise. Sad to say, they form a very large proportion of the population.

Why exercise?

A balanced diet ensures production of blood of good quality which is required for maintaining good health. To be most effective, this blood has to reach all parts of the body and provide materials for proper cell growth and maintenance in addition to ensuring immunity. This is best accomplished by balanced (i.e., well planned) exercises which together send blood to all parts of the body. Brisk exercise makes the heart pump blood with more power, increases force of blood circulation and sends adequate blood even into the minute parts of the circulatory system all over the body. It makes the heart healthier and more sturdy. There are many other benefits which include: maintaining a biological rhythm which is of utmost importance, proper maintenance of lungs and blood vessels through out the body, burning out extra sugar in blood (which can cause harm), getting proper sleep and reducing weight. Balanced exercises prevent occurrence of many health problems by supplying immunity producing white blood cells and antioxidants to all parts of the body,

British Heart Foundation (BHF) has emphasized on an important benefit from exercise as follows: “Mental and physical health are not mutually exclusive. In deed, exercise is good for your cognition, mood and physical health. You can improve your cognition and brain health throughout your life through exercise and learning: both of which have been shown to increase neurogenesis in the brain.” (Deccan Chronicle dated 19-02-13, page 10). Deepak Chopra, a well known professor of medicine and author of many popular thought provoking books on health has been repeatedly emphasizing various benefits from a proper mind-body relationship.

How to exercise?

It is also not realized that the manner of taking exercise is important. Some people want to some how “finish off” exercises with out any interest or even “grumbling” all the time. While this ensures faster than idle circulation of blood, it causes subtle stresses which can be harmful over a long period. The best manner of taking exercises is to do these with a smile and enjoy the movement of every body part, in a relaxed way. This has a healthy influence on the mind and a perfect mind-body relationship, which is of utmost importance, is maintained. To get best results, start exercises with a happy smile and continue smiling till the end of the exercises. An additional benefit is that smiling while exercising sends blood to many muscles which are used only for smiling. And most important, the happy feeling resulting from exercising with a smile also leads to one enjoying it and looking forward to exercising regularly, in stead of being indifferent about it. If you diligently try this manner of exercising for about 10 days you will enjoy the difference it makes.

It is better to count the number of times each exercise is done. Then, attention of the brain is drawn to three things at the same time – the body movements during exercise, the counting and the smile. This results in subtle multi-tasking of the brain regularly and helps to prevent deterioration of the brain over time.

Some people take exercise only on certain days of the week or intermittently i.e., not every day. They ignore the need for adequate supply of blood to all parts of the body every day and for ensuring that the biological rhythm, which the body needs, is not upset. According to BHF, “staying fit and active every day can dramatically reduce the risk of developing diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, cancer and dementia.” (Deccan Chronicle dated 19-02-13, page 11) If exercise is not done every day, the benefits described above and in the second and third paragraphs are not realized in full.

For any exercise which is done more than 30 times or is vigorous, do it slowly during the first 5 times to gradually tune up the muscles, then increase to make it brisk and then slow down during the last 5 times for cooling down the muscles and nerves and to avoid jerky stops. Always avoid sudden jerky movements to prevent sprain or damage to muscles and nerves. This modification also adds to the subtle multi-taxing of the brain described earlier.

Whenever one starts new exercises or restarts exercises after a long interval, it is better to do each exercise only for one-fourth of the desired duration. Otherwise, pain may occur in some parts of the body on the next day or sprain can occur due to unaccustomed brisk movements, resulting in blaming these on the exercise and stopping it. After 2 days, increase to half and then to three-fourths and then to full durations, each after a gap of 2 days.

There are many types of exercise schedules around the world which have their own advantages. To have balanced exercises and get full benefit and completely achieve the aims of taking exercises explained earlier, it may be necessary to adopt more than one schedule. For instance, your favourite Yoga exercises may be good to maintain a proper mind-body relationship but may not include adequate brisk exercises. To get better results add some brisk physical exercises for at least 30 minutes from any other exercise schedule or walking, or cycling, or swimming. Similarly, supplement your favourite physical exercise schedule with additional brisk exercise for at least 30 minutes (if not included) and selected yoga exercises (particularly pranayama and shavasana) to improve mind-body relationship which is of utmost importance.

Lack of interest in exercises – a preventive measure, long overdue

Sad to say, despite such manifold advantages of balanced exercises which lead to sound physical and mental health and which can “dramatically reduce the risk of developing diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, cancer and dementia.”, the proportion of population who carry out exercise every day is shockingly negligible. A survey carried out by BHF has shown that “94% of those questioned did not deem physical fitness as being of prime importance.” (Deccan Chronicle dated 19-02-13, page 11). It is a mater for serious consideration that diabetes, heart diseases, cancer and mental diseases are serious health problems mainly because only a negligible number (about 6%) give importance to physical fitness, which “dramatically reduces the risk” of developing these diseases. By creating awareness of the manifold benefits of balanced exercises, this proportion should be lifted up to effectively control the major health problems mentioned above. Balanced exercises deserve to be taken up as a long over due preventive health measure.

It is well known that those who have access to health care believe more in curative care and relish the habit of taking medicines after their breakfast, lunch etc. It is the same group that contributes more to the prevalence of the major health problems mentioned by BHF and prefers, without applying their mind, to get relief through medicines rather than take exercises to prevent the problem. Therefore, to make this preventive measure popular, a change in mind set is essential.

Health education, which emphasizes that taking balanced exercises properly is an enjoyable activity which gives many important benefits, should be carried out in a mission mode. This should focus on all age groups, particularly children and youth in order to make this preventive measure a regular habit from young age itself.

For clarifications or comments or informing SRB about how you feel
after practicing balanced exercises, you can contact SRB at

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