FINDING TIME TO EXERCISE BY BRO. DR. PAUL KWAW NTODI, REGIONAL PHYSICIAN WESTERN NORTH REGIONAL COUNCIL
Exercise is the physical exertion of the body. The importance of exercise in maintaining and improving healthy levels of physical and mental health is immense. Regular physical exercise is one of the most important things we can do to keep healthy with little or no financial cost. ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ – A sound mind in a sound body. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of disease or infirmity”.
WHY WE DO NOT EXERCISE
Most people are unable to exercise because of changing socio-cultural reasons. In the past, our grandparents were more active doing manual labour and walked long distances. A lot more people now have sedentary lifestyles: – We have jobs either in offices or in the market place. Most people now do very little walking; getting to work in vehicles, getting to offices in elevators and using the intercom. Back at home, the increased use of house-helps, washing machines, dishwashers, blenders and remote control for television have combined to reduce our physical activity. Life’s stress and busy schedules prevent most people from exercising. The increasing consumption of alcohol and fatty diets with less fibre are a good recipe for the pronounced manifestation of the negative health effects of lack of exercise.
THE BODY’S RESPONSE TO EXERCISE
Physical exercise leads to faster and deeper breathing. It also increases the rate of beating of the heart and the opening of the small blood vessels with increased blood flow. These result in better removal of waste body products and increased delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, joints and other organs of the body resulting in improved physical fitness. Exercise also results in the release of “happy hormones” such as endorphins, which boost the mood. It is scientifically proven that regular exercise affects fat cells at the genetic level and thus prevent obesity and type 2 Diabetes.
People who do not exercise have increased risk of cardiovascular diseases like Hypertension, Heart Attack and Stroke. Obesity and the associated type 2 Diabetes are increased in the absence of exercise. Arthritis and thinning of bones also increase due to lack of exercise.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
Being physically active boosts the level of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or “good cholesterol” and decreases LDL or “bad cholesterol”. These lead to a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like Hypertension, Heart Attack and stroke.
Exercise helps to reduce weight or prevent weight gain and this prevents obesity with the attendant reduced risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, cancers (for example Colon cancer), arthritis and falls. Regular exercise improves the heart and skeletal muscle strength, thus, boosting stamina and improving physical endurance. People who exercise regularly have improved immunity to fight minor viral infections like common cold.
Regular workout helps improve mental relaxation, decreases anxiety and improves sleep. Self-esteem and self-confidence are generally enhanced with physical exercise. It serves as a form of entertainment: it can be fun and takes away boredom. Joining sports and keep-fit clubs can help us socialize and network, all of which have health benefits (provided such meetings are not crowned with heavy omo tuo and excessive alcohol intake).
HOW MUCH EXERCISE?
How much exercise is beneficial depends on the frequency, intensity and duration (time). It is recommended that at least thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise, five times a week provides significant benefit. Examples include: Brisk walking, cycling, walking up stairs or hill, swimming and dancing. Twenty minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week is equally good. Examples include: running, jogging, fast cycling and skipping.
It is a good caution to stop when one starts to feel dizzy, nauseated or develops chest pain during exercise.
FINDING TIME TO EXERCISE
With the current socio-economic challenges, we need to make a conscious effort to exercise. We need to make exercise part of our daily planned activities. Early morning walking, walking instead of using cars for short distances, using the stairs instead of elevators, avoiding frequent use of intercom, early morning aerobic exercises, skipping and joining sports clubs are many of the numerous activities we can undertake.
The evidence of the benefits of exercise is overwhelming. We should not only increase the level of our physical activity but also reduce our sedentary way of living. “Non est vivire sed valere vita est” – Life is not being alive only, but being well. Let us stay healthier, live longer, and prevent cardiovascular diseases, weight gain, obesity, diabetes and arthritis with just thirty minutes of moderate physical exercise a day.