It's time to invest in wellness, says Gita Arjun, who's ready with her ‘Passport to Fitness' programme

A growing economy and lifestyle changes have meant more than just increased buying power and affluence. They have resulted in an India piling on the kilos. Proof of this lies in the slew of lifestyle diseases that have proliferated — diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, high cholesterol, PCOS. Also, an increased fat content in the body ups the risk of breast cancer.

“The increase in weight has been huge, across categories. There's excess of food — all children seem to do is sit, eat, and study. There is no play at all. And, adults have forgotten to move,” says obstetrician and gynaecologist Gita Arjun, director, E.V. Kalyani Medical Centre (EVKMC), who's launching ‘Passport to Fitness', along with trainer P. Rajesh, in January 2011, to address this very issue.

Among the other reasons she attributes to weight gain is changed sleeping pattern. “We've doing it all wrong. We sleep when our metabolism is high, and stay awake when it is low.”

But, why focus on the woman? “The woman is the primary caregiver at home; she will be empowered if she knows her body. She's the key to her family's health,” says Dr. Gita.

The fitness programme works towards that.

“Simple tools such as a weighing scale and a measuring tape can show if you're healthy or not. If your BMI is above normal {18-23 (Indian standards), 20-25 (Western standards)}, it's time you did something. Because, with trunkal or central obesity arrive a host of problems.”

Which is why, besides exercise, she suggests a Rule of Two: eat two idlis for breakfast, two small cups of rice for lunch, and two rotis for dinner. Vegetables cooked in less oil and fruits should make up the rest of your diet. “Cut down on carbohydrates. It's the best thing you can do for yourself,” she says.

As for exercise, ensure you get at least three hours a week. “Over the years, your muscles have turned into fat, and you have to re-convert them,” says the doctor, who's been working out regularly since 1975.

The exercise room at the EVKMC allows participants to do leg and floor exercises, weights, and dancercises. And, there are no machines. “You make the effort.” There are sessions for pregnant women too.

The programme, which includes consultation with a nutritionist, will be customised. For instance, the regimen for someone in their 50s will improve flexibility, fitness and balance; while the one for girls with PCOS will help reduce abdominal fat.

Another advantage of working out is the positive addiction to the endorphin rush after a session, she says. Which is why she wants women to find some “me” time. “Life starts at 40, but menopause is a dangerous time; that's when you accumulate trunkal fat. Push yourself, don't be complacent. Exercise lends balance to your life.”

And, she believes fitness has to be physician-driven. “We have so far invested in illness; we need to promote wellness. The difficulty is that wellbeing is a concept, not tangible. You have to experience it to know its benefits.”

And yes, there's no holiday for exercise. Your rewards? “A glowing face and the spring in your step,” she says.

(For details about the programme, call 28474475, 28473996 or 28474342)

Things to do

Exercise three hours a week, ideally with a partner

Start now

Invest in a good pair of shoes, and carry it everywhere

Stretch pre-and post-workout

Too busy to walk? Run up and down the stairs