Simple Basics Of The Exercise Science
Exercise is as essential to health as is brushing teeth, or taking a bath. But while we are conditioned to brush our teeth or take a bath, we are unfortunately not conditioned to exercise. Hence, we always associate exercise with immediate rewards. If we don’t lose weight, within a few days, we tend to stop exercise. We don’t do that with brushing, or bathing, do we?
Without getting too technical, there are three basic types of exercises we normally perform.
- Floor exercises: These will include yoga and exercises based on it.
- Cardiovascular exercises: Such exercises as fast walking, running, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, working out on cardiovascular equipment like the treadmill, elliptical cross trainer, cycles are cardiovascular exercises. Sports like tennis and squash are also this kind of exercises.
- Strength training exercises: These are exercises performed with free weights and weight machines.
The floor exercises are basically yoga-based exercises. They improve your posture, balance and make your muscles supple and joints flexible. These exercises, when used correctly in yoga form, help keep your neck, shoulders, back and all the joints healthy and pain or illness free.
They do not burn calories quickly. Hence they are not ‘weight loss’ exercises. Trying to use them for losing weight is unwise.
The cardiovascular exercises not only help your body burn calories rapidly during exercise but also for a few hours after the workout. Thus your metabolic rate (the total number of calories your body burns in twenty-four hours) is raised. Thus they are the ‘weight loss’ exercises.
Cardiovascular exercise is defined as any exercise that raises your heart rate to an optimum level for twenty minutes a day, five days a week. To arrive at this number, you have to subtract your age from the number 220 and calculate 70 percent of this number as your cardiovascular heart rate.
For a twenty year old, the cardiovascular heart rate is –
220 – 20 = 200 and 70% of 200 is 140.
Cardiovascular exercises improve the efficiency of your heart, blood circulation, and lungs. Your sense of well being, complexion, skin and hair health improve.
Gradually your pulse rate slows down. Athletes always have lower pulse rates than the non-athletic people.
Cardiovascular exercises not only burn calories essential for weight loss but also improve the health of your heart. These exercises also regulate your appetite, so you tend to eat as many calories as you burn every day.
Cardiovascular exercises lower your blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels (including L.D.L. and V.L.D.L. cholesterol, which are bad for your heart) and can improve your H.D.L. cholesterol (which protects your heart from coronary artery disease). Thus they are vital to the health of your heart. They can be a protection against a huge number of diseases including coronary heart diseases and diabetes.
Cardiovascular exercises can be high impact like aerobics, intensive jogging, running at high speeds, dancing, jumping or low impacts like brisk walking, marching, light jogging, cycling, and swimming.
The high impact cardiovascular exercises are risky and can cause long term injuries and are not advisable as a permanent exercise routine.
The low impact exercises, especially walking, are very safe exercises and can be a lifetime exercise routine.
The strength training exercises give you stronger and bigger muscles. They do not burn a lot of calories by themselves, but the heavier muscles help your body burn a few more calories every day during daily activities. Thus the metabolic rate goes up a little. But this rise in calorie burning can hardly match the number of calories your body burns in a cardiovascular workout. Hence there is little point in trying to use them as ‘weight loss’ exercises.
Gyms have traditionally made strength training exercises the core of their activity. Contrary to what they may believe or tell you, they are not the weight reduction exercises. That is precisely why gyms have always faired poorly on the ‘weight loss’ front.
Taking up mild weight training is fine but overdoing it could be of questionable value. Wrongly done under the half-baked trainers in gyms, these exercises have harmed a lot of gym members immensely and will continue to do so with equal impunity in future!
Although ladies can take up these exercises with caution, they should avoid excessive strength training as this can lead to hormonal disturbances leading to masculine features. The rise in the level of androgens (male hormones) can cause disturbances in the menstrual cycles and lead to facial hair growth. They may lead to PCOD or aggravate it. This will make losing weight tougher.
Exercise also improves our metabolic health.
People with better metabolic health generate more energy and and use it more efficiently, burn fat better and maintain a healthy weight easier. They also have more energy and better memories.
Benefits of healthy food, exercise and weight loss on blood pressure and the heart health.
Exercise alone has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by 3.5 and 2.0 mm respectively.
Improvement in diet by shifting to low fat dairy (milk, curds, buttermilk) and fibre rich foods viz. vegetables and fruits, we already have ample pulses and legumes in our food, has been shown to 5.5 and 3.0 mm Hg in people whose diets are rich in high fat dairy, flesh foods and low in low fat dairy and fibre rich foods.
Weight loss of every four kg has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by 6.25 mm and diastolic blood pressure by 4 mm.
The combined effects of exercise and weight loss has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by 12.5 mm and diastolic blood pressure by 8 mm in overweight or obese people.
Exercise has also been shown to improve ventricular mass and wall thickness, reduce arterial stiffness and improve endothelial function.
The endothelium produces small amounts of nitric oxide which keeps the endothelium smooth and slippery, allowing the blood to flow smoothly and preventing inflammation of the endothelium and clot formation by white cells and platelets, by preventing them from attaching to it. It also relaxes the smooth muscle cells of the middle layer of the arterial wall, below the endothelium, preventing their spasms and keeping arteries open.
In simple words, exercises keep our arteries healthy and protect us from heart attacks and strokes!
You lose a lot of water during exercise. It is vital that you rehydrate adequately. Drink ample water before, during and after exercise. Not doing so would cause fatigue, muscle cramping, and pain, especially in legs. It leads to haemoconcentration (thickening of blood) and can cause the formation of blood clots and could lead to coronary artery disease and heart attacks in the long run!
Slimming programs and old generation gyms prohibit people from drinking water during exercise! This is extremely dangerous.
Unscientific exercises and their side effects:
The pioneer and the undisputed queen of high impact aerobics in Pune, most gym goers three decades ago will place her unerringly, tragically died in her late fifties or early sixties, while two renowned doctors in Pune, both also feature on our website, working out comfortably on treadmills and exercise bikes at our Centre, for thirty-five years, are still fit and healthy in their seventies!
I have seen a fifty-eight-year-old lady with osteoarthritis knees (wear and tear of knee joints with pain). She apparently was the ‘leg press champion’ of the senior group of a health club! She actually had precipitated or aggravated her knee problem by stupidly pushing 190 kg weight with legs! So keep your age and physical condition in mind before you start exercising.
If you suffer from persistent fatigue, pains and aches, feel exhausted during and after exercise, it could mean that your exercises are not really suitable for you. When you start exercising in a scientific manner, you should start feeling fresh and energetic straight away. There may be mild body pain initially if you have not exercised for some time, but the pain goes away in a day or two.
On unscientific exercises, this sense of well being is absent. You could feel terribly exhausted and might drop off to sleep for long hours, even at day time, after exercise. This is a sure indication that the workout is bad for you.
Most health clubs rely too heavily on strength training exercises (coupled often with very low-calorie diets, if you are overweight). Excessive weight training, especially on bad diets, gives very little rewards and can also damage the skeletal tissues and particularly the joints, as it happened to the lady mentioned earlier. The expensive protein supplements sold to you by the gyms, or on the sly, by the trainers, looking to make extra money, do no good to you either.
Gyms and self-styled floor exercise based slimming programs often also force their members to do hundreds of painful lunges, squats, crunches, and sit-ups, inflicting severe injuries on their members. Back injuries, prolapsed discs, ligament and cartilage injuries of the knees and ankle injuries are common on such exercises. Such exercises can also raise your abdominal pressure and can give you raised blood pressure, torn muscles, hernias, and piles.
It is absolutely senseless doing such exercises for hours to lose weight when simple walking can get the job done much better!
Consult your doctor before beginning your exercises.
Sitting is the modern day smoking: According to Dr. James A. Levine, a Mayo Clinic physician, research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
To prevent the risk of premature death due to heart disease and some cancers, we must stop sitting long hours and make sure we move around all day and walk at least 20 minutes twice a day, more even better if we are overweight!