Fitness

Beyond just diet and exercise

Smile more, stress less PHOTO: MEENAKSHI MADHAVAN  

It’s the New Year and it’s the time to resolve to get in shape. Gym memberships are discounted, training floors are packed, dreams run wild and everyone is looking for the best exercise or diet programme. But is exercise and diet the only way to improve your health? Absolutely not. Here are four ways to bypass the beeline to the treadmill and improve your health by doing things that are far more important than playing ‘hamster on a wheel’.

Sleep more. Crash less. 

Sleep contributes to health more than any exercise or food can. Realise that your body works all day, every day and sleep is your body shutting down for maintenance. This downtime is very critical for the optimal functioning of your body over the long term and there really is no alternative. No matter how hard or consistently you train or how well you eat or how amazing your vitamin pills are, sleep is when repair and replenishment happen.  Without sufficient sleep, your body performs sub-optimally, focus is off, motivation is limited, productivity plummets and eventually your body crashes, resulting in some form of illness, thereby forcing you into downtime. 

The smarter, easier and healthier option — ensure you get sufficient sleep on a daily basis. 

Smile more. Stress less. 

Stress is possibly the biggest issue we face today and unfortunately we’re doing nothing about it. Even if your training and nutrition is spot on, stress can undo all the good work and screw your health by creating hormonal imbalances which lead to fat storage, sleep deprivation or low immunity, which create more imbalances, so on and so forth.  The next time you find yourself stressing out, snap out of it and try to talk some sense into yourself. While stressors and stressful situations are unavoidable, reacting to those stressors is a choice we make. And trust me when I say all we need to do is to choose not to react negatively during such situations. 

Breathe more. Worry less. 

Breathing is one of the most fundamental physiological processes and is possibly the most important one. This is why every traditional approach to health from yoga to Chinese medicine stresses on the importance of breathing right. 

Every time you find yourself stressing out or breathing fast and shallow, do the following: one, breathe in deeply through your nose and into your stomach (your stomach should rise and fall more than your chest). Two, hold your breath for a few seconds. Three, breathe out slowly until you’re able to get all the air out. Repeat. 

Move more. Sit less. 

Sitting is the smoking of our generation and it is as addictive if not more. Most of you reading this spend more than 80 per cent of your waking hours in a seated position and that is not helping. All the sitting is making you weak, tight and immobile and is the reason behind your aches and niggles, especially at the low back and neck. The human body is meant to be used, to move through 3-dimensional space. In the absence of activity, your body is similar to an unused car rusting away. So, even if you can’t afford to workout hard and consistently, be sure to stay active. 

The simplest way to start doing this is to sit less. Try and stay out of the seated position as often as possible. The moment you put yourself in a position that is conducive to movement, you will move. 

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 3:36:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fitness/beyond-just-diet-and-exercise/article6757258.ece

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