April 11th, 2012
‘Doctor, my whole body hurts! If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have been out running for the last three days. I can’t do this any more … all this exercise. Just give me some medicine!”
This was the gist of an outburst from one of my female patients, a rather plump lady who has high cholesterol levels. She got all those words out before I even had the chance to open my mouth. This woman is no fool, you see. She knew that as soon as I’d measured her weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, I would have lots to say to her. So she decided to go on the offensive and serve first, so to speak.
Usually, people who are overweight, even if they’re not yet suffering from heart disease, run a high risk of contracting artery diseases. I had insisted that the patient watch her diet and do more exercise, telling her that by keeping her weight within a healthy range she had a significantly better chance of fighting off a whole range of diseases, including diseases of the heart.
But this time she insisted right back, declaring that she wasn’t going to exercise any more, that she’d had enough of exercising. But what she didn’t mention was whether she’d had enough with restricting her food intake.
I could only smile at her because I’d seen it all before. I remembered feeling the exact same way when I myself started exercising 10 years before.
Nothing in this world is free _ and that applies to good health, too. You have to work hard to make yourself healthy and sometimes it’s not a sweet ride at all. The most important part is to realise the importance of staying healthy. If you exercise, you will, at the very least, experience an “exercise high” afterwards. When you exercise your body releases substances called endorphins which make you feel nice and relaxed and can even get you addicted to regular exercise.
However, for endorphins to be released you have to exert yourself to a certain level (at least half of your full capacity) and for a certain period of time. Three to five minutes of heavy exercise following 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-level exercise will do the trick. And the effect of the endorphins can be felt for 15 to 60 minutes after the workout ends.
Light exercise such as walking doesn’t really trigger endorphin release, so if you start by exercising lightly you won’t get that natural “high”. But when you challenge yourself to increasingly tougher routines, you will get to that point eventually.
The right way to exercise is to start lightly and work your way up. If you have a heart condition, please consult your doctor first. That patient I mentioned earlier: she started out by going for runs and all that gave her, of course, was sore muscles rather than endorphins. So she felt discouraged and wanted to quit the fight.
Exercise also has other benefits such as keeping your heart strong, minimising the risk of diabetes, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol level and making your bones stronger. It can even prevent some types of cancer. However, you need to exercise for quite a long time to achieve these benefits.
Another benefit of exercise is stronger muscles, which can be achieved by lifting weights _ even light weights. Don’t forget that there are three types of exercise. Aerobic exercise trains your heart and lungs, while stretching relaxes your muscles and joints, and resistance training strengthens your muscles (and also helps older people maintain their balance when walking). Sticking to an exercise routine that incorporates all three components is therefore very important.
When we lift something heavy we tend to take a deep breath and hold that breath. When the task is finished, we exhale. But this isn’t the right way to do it, especially if you’re suffering from heart disease. It should actually be done the other way around. I said this to one of my 80-year-old patients who went on a half-hour run every day without fail, but never did any resistance or stretching exercises. Being something of an exercise fanatic, he listened carefully to what I had to say and then promised he’d start incorporating all three types of exercise into his regular routine.
He came back to see me, two months later, to tell me that he loved stretching before and after a run because it reduced the severity of muscular aching he experienced. Resistance exercises or weightlifting were also good, he said, because he now felt a lot more stable when he was out walking.
However, he found exhaling while lifting a dumb-bell very difficult initially. It was only at that point, he confessed, that he realised he’d been breathing incorrectly for 80 years!
Prof Nithi Mahanonda is consultant cardiologist and interventionist, Perfect Heart Institute.
Reference : http://www.bangkokpost.com
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