Last month, we spoke about good health being your fundamental right. That it is inherent in your very constitution. Now, our national Constitution gives us the right to choose. Unfortunately, nature and our bodies are not fully free. So, our choice of stretching our body’s constitution beyond a point is dicey. Hence, this right comes with an attached self-responsibility. To yourself, your family, your employer, etc. — to exercise restraint on the one hand. And, vote with your feet, on the other. For your fitness — immunity, stamina, strength, every physical activity — is the foundation of your life. It is the core of your life’s course and circumstances.
Eat right, eat light
Begin with a balanced diet. Your stomach is about the size of your fist. It processes a lot more than it holds. And in turn passes on the excess to the rest of your body. So mainly, waste goes to waist.
Do not rush for a second (or more) helping. It takes around 20 minutes for the stomach to signal “I’m full” to the brain. In this context, let us differentiate between hunger and appetite. The first is a need, the latter a want, even a physical luxury.
Drink at least two litres of water/fluids every day. They constitute 70–80 per cent of your body and hence require reciprocal replacement. Every physical effort, besides exercising of course, consumes fluid, not fat. The fact is, body fat is as old as human evolution. Nature trained it to be a physical godown while man lived off the prey that he hunted. The means of our meals have changed. Not our natural process. Which includes dieting.
We ourselves have experienced the ups and downs of dieting. Until we evolved our own. Today, as we have for the last three decades, we eat the normal, natural food items that we were brought up on. With one major difference — our meals are made without oil. Indeed, hair-oil is the only lubricant you would find at our home.
We have focused on food because it’s all important in every sphere of our lives. Fat and fit are not just a change of alphabet but much more: a change of our consumption attitude.
Keep in mind that after age 30, one loses about three to eight per cent of one’s muscle mass every 10 years. And that muscle mass decay further accelerates after age 60. This in turn can set the ground for fractures and osteoporosis. Also, the lungs’ and brain’s ability to take in oxygen and convert it into energy diminishes. So the time for you to undertake some aerobic activity (walking, jogging, cycling, swimming) and scientific, select weight-training is near. Says Grayson Wickham, a physical therapist in New York: ‘The human body is extremely resilient. But the double-edged sword there is: that it is so resilient that we can get away with a lot — until we can’t.’
Hence, scientific exercise involving muscles and the cardiovascular system, is some insurance from future risks in these areas. Likewise, if your stability is shaky, go in for balance-boosting exercises like single-leg stands (remember the langdi races you did as a kid!?) If you are wanting in flexibility, try yoga or tai chi (with a qualified/certified expert). We use the word scientific for exactly this context. Simply imitating an exercise without proper guidance does more harm than good. We remember a whole lot of Chinese simultaneously suffered back pain because they got into yoga uninstructed.
Frankly, weight is not the be-all and end-all of health. All the same, it punches above its weight as its indicator. When we first began to study, pursue and then publish our fitness columns, we discovered to our dismay that weight standards were set to western parameters. Literally, a one-size-fits-all situation. The fiscal equivalent would be one US dollar equals one Indian rupee! Our deep dive into the subject led us to the Indian Institute of Sports, Patiala. It was and remains our ‘gold standard’ for physical health and fitness. And is the bottom-line of both our book and programme, Fitness for Life. The vital stats are published alongside.
We are not professional athletes. And we guess, nor are most of you. With your consent, let’s set the fitness bar higher. And then make sensible concessions and compromises. An extra five kilos or so could be allowed for us, non-athletes and those over age 30. Anything more would be below the physical plimsoll line of your ship of good health.
A survey reveals that 42 per cent Americans are obese and 30.7 per cent of them overweight. Back home, a study reveals 135 million of us, Indians, are overweight. A scary thought for a nation already in the top five world economies and counting… though unfortunately not its calories.
Hence, aspirations should be accompanied by healthy perspiration. As you look up, do look down. At your weighing machine. Let it decide. Truly, your life is in the balance. Set it right.
The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme