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Physical Activity - Get Going
Physical inactivity or sedentriness is an independent risk factor for developing obesity, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and cancer. In the light of this knowledge any kind of physical activity is the key to being healthy and happy.

Physical activity is the bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle that increases energy expenditure above the basal level.

Physical fitness is the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and to meet unforeseen emergencies

Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposive in the sense that improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is the objective.

Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Young women and men who exercise regularly generally achieve greater peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) than those who do not. For most people, bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. After that time, we can begin to lose bone. Women and men older than age 20 can help prevent bone loss with regular exercise. Exercising allows us to maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which in turn help to prevent falls and related fractures. This is especially important for older adults and people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Some physical activities are not intense enough to be called exercise, as these activities do not increase your heart rate, so you should not count these towards the 30 or more minutes a day that you should strive for.
These include walking at a casual pace, such as while grocery shopping, and doing light household chores.

When we get home, we think nothing of spending the evening sitting or even lying down in front of the TV. If that sounds like your routine, then it's important to remember any exercise at all is better than none.

Here are some of the best, easiest and most popular ways to start getting fit, as well as some suggestions for alternatives.

Walking
Most of us walk at some point each day but we do it far less than we used to – there's been a decline of more than 20 per cent in the number of miles walked since the mid-1980s.

But walking's the simplest and cheapest of all exercises, and making it a regular activity and focusing on the intensity or distance covered can greatly increase your fitness.

Walking improves the condition of your heart and lungs (cardiovascular fitness) and works the muscles of the lower body. It's a weight-bearing activity, so it may improve bone density, yet it's also low impact, putting less stress on the joints than some other forms of exercise.

Walking up hills expends more energy - even walking down again uses more energy than walking on the flat, but if you don't think you're ready for the hills yet, boost your fitness by walking just about anywhere.

You could try power walking in the park, for example: the idea is to walk at such a fast pace that it would actually be easier to break into a run. You burn more calories walking at this speed than you would running at the same pace.

If you do little activity at the moment, the following tips can help kick-start your walking programme:
  • Walk, don't drive, to the local shop.
  • If you have children, walk them to and from school as briskly as you all can manage.
  • Get off the bus or train a stop or two early. This will give you some extra daily exercise - and might even reduce your fare.
  • Take a walk during your lunch hour. Half an hour's walk after a meal will cut the amount of fat you store by using it to fuel your exercise.
  • Once a week take a longer walk along a completely different route each time to keep things interesting.
Running/jogging
Running might just be the ultimate way to get fit: it's cheap, can be done anywhere, at any time and, most importantly, is very effective. There's really no difference between running and jogging, although jogging is often used to describe running at a slow pace. Whatever you call it, all you need is a good pair of running shoes and a little enthusiasm.

As long as you're healthy and take it easy to start with, anyone can run. If you have a history of diabetes, chest pain, angina, asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure, have had recent surgery or are pregnant, consult a doctor first.

As a high-impact activity, running may maintain or increase bone density, thus preventing osteoporosis. But it can also put more stress on your joints than lower impact activities such as walking and cycling, especially if you're overweight. Again, if you're concerned, consult your GP.
As with all exercise, you must warm up first. Start by walking at a brisk pace, progress into a slow jog. Run at a pace at which you can still hold a conversation, but which definitely feels harder than walking. If you're getting too breathless to talk, slow down or walk for a while until you're breathing more easily.

To begin with, aim to run/walk in this way for ten minutes in total. Do this every second or third day, gradually reducing the walking time and increasing the running until you can run for the full ten minutes.

At the end of each session, warm down by finishing with a slow jog or brisk walk until your heart rate and breathing have returned to more normal levels. Stretch while your muscles are still warm.

Next, start increasing the total duration of your run by a minute or two every third session, until you can manage 30 minutes three times a week. Even if you're feeling good, don't be tempted to increase your running time by more than ten per cent each week.

Many people are put off running because they find it boring. For this reason, it is important to get a bit of variety in your running. There are many different sorts of running – road running, cross-country running, fell running (running in the hills), or you could run at your local athletics track, or even on a treadmill at the gym (though running on a moving treadmill uses less energy).

Other ways to stay motivated include:
  • Have a clear aim, such as competing in a local fun run or being able to run non-stop for an hour.
  • Be realistic. Don't commit to run a marathon if you've never run before.
  • Think of yourself as a runner and make running a habit, just like any routine activity. Think in terms of "when I go for my run" rather than "if I go for a run".
  • Keep a diary. Record your progress, the time of day, weather, how you felt, where you went and so on.
Swimming
Swimming is another popular way to start getting fit. It’s still relatively inexpensive and you need even less kit than you do for running.

Most pools also offer lessons if you're a non-swimmer, or you haven't swum for years and want to improve your technique.

Swimming is a great way to tone up and trim down, because to swim you need to move your body against the resistance of the water. Just swimming a few lengths involves most of the major muscle groups, giving your body a good workout.

Swimming is also an effective form of fat-burning exercise: because you can swim at your own pace, slowly if you wish, you can keep swimming for long periods, and maintaining your staying power is a vital goal in fat-burning exercise.
The other big advantage is that water supports your weight and takes the stress off your joints, so you can put your body through a good workout without your knees, hips or spine paying the price.

Research shows that exercising in waist-deep water reduces the pressure on joints by 50 per cent, while exercising in chest-deep water reduces it by as much as 75 per cent. This can also make it a great exercise if you're recovering from an injury that means you can't run or play your normal sport.

However, while this is great if you have joint problems such as arthritis, it won't build up much protection against the brittle bone disease osteoporosis because it's not a weight-bearing exercise, so you may want to alternate swimming with other activities.

Cycling
Many of the short trips we make by car are ideal for a quick spin on the bike, plus you'll be helping to protect the environment.

Some of the main benefits of cycling are:
  • A healthy heart. A major study of more than 10,000 people found those who cycle at least 20 miles a week are half as likely to have heart problems as those who don't cycle at all.
  • Weight control. Some research suggests we should be burning up at least 2,000 calories a week through exercise (actually far more than used by the recommended 30 minutes of moderately intensive exercise five times a week). Cycling burns about 300 calories an hour, so if you do it twice a day, the numbers soon add up.
  • It can be part of your routine. If you have no time to exercise, why not see whether it's feasible to cycle to and from work or run every day errands on the cycle, which would incorporate excellent exercise into your normal daily routine.
  • Because the bicycle supports your body, cycling isn't necessarily a weight-bearing exercise. This means it's good for people with certain bone and joint problems because it puts very little pressure on them, but it makes it less effective for protecting against osteoporosis.
Dance
Dancing is largely an aerobic activity that improves the condition of the heart and lungs, as well as testing your balance. To dance for any length of time also requires muscular endurance and motor fitness.

Many people think they can't dance because they have poor coordination, but anyone can dance. The main purpose is to enjoy moving to music, so dancing is suitable for people of all ages, shapes and sizes.

As with most activities, it's a matter of starting gently and building up to the right level of activity. See if your local college, social club or leisure centre runs classes. As well as keeping you fit, something like a salsa class is an easy way of meeting other people.

Cricket, Football, etc
It's one of the nation's favourite participation and spectator sports, but football and cricket are just one of many examples of team ball sports that are accessible to players of all standards.

Both are a multiple sprint sports requiring players to spend some of their time sprinting and other times running fast or slowly, walking or even standing still.

Varying degrees of fitness are required, depending on the player's position in the team, the amount of time spent on the field and the level at which the game is played, but a full 90-minute match, for example, demands high levels of aerobic fitness.

Gym
The gym can be a good place to work on overall aerobic fitness and build muscle strength, or just somewhere to exercise on bad weather days.

Gym-based activities include aerobic exercise such as running, rowing or cycling machines, weight training, and classes, such as aerobics or aerobic dance. All ages and fitness levels are catered for and improvements can be measured and exercise programmes tailored to your needs.

Some gyms can be expensive to join, and it is important that the trainers as well qualified.

Racket sports
Racket sports, especially squash, have a great reputation for fitness, to play racket sports safely and prevent unnecessary injuries you need to be properly prepared - and already pretty fit.

Racket games, like squash, tennis and badminton, come under the heading of multiple sprint sports, which tax all the energy systems and require a combination of skill, stamina, strength, power and reaction time.

These are sports one should get fit to play, rather than play to get fit. Injuries and even sudden death have been associated with the high-intensity bursts of activity characteristic of racket sports. The most likely causes are a lack of fitness and a failure to warm up and stretch before playing. These people should ensure they play regularly and often (at least once a week) and that they also train for the sport. They should also ensure they have enough time to warm up and stretch before playing.

Activity Pyramid
 
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