Don't go for magic mantras


By Dr Gita Mathai
  • Published 29.11.17

Q I have often come across advertisements for supplements that claim to help in weight loss without diet or exercise. Do they work?

It is hard to imagine how weight loss is possible without diet or exercise. Perhaps the supplements are laced with natural herbal precursors of thyroid hormones or ephedrine to increase the BMR (basal metabolic rate). These can make you lose weight initially but have harmful side effects on the heart. Once you stop the supplements, the weight may creep up again. Not a good idea, I think. 

Stretch the pain away

Q After exercising vigorously, my muscles are sore and painful. I find it difficult even to go to the office.

The soreness and pain are due to micro tears in the muscle during exercise and the build up of a chemical called lactic acid. Massage and hot and cold compresses will help. One of the ways to prevent soreness is to do warm-ups and cool down movements — stretches — so that muscles are loosened and flexible. Also, do some deep breathing intermittently during the workout. Exercise different muscle groups on alternate days so that they have a chance to rest. Eat a balanced diet, with enough proteins, fruits and vegetables. Sleep at least seven hours. Adequate sleep allows time for muscles to recover.

Exercise relief

Q I have painful joints and I am tired of taking tablets for this. The doctor said I may have to continue some medication or the other for the rest of my life. I am thinking of trying alternative treatment.

Physiotherapy, yoga, stretching, flexion, and regular walking can do wonders as adjuvants to medication. You may even be able to reduce the dosage of the tablets. Some supplements like turmeric, or wearing copper bracelets and magnets are anecdotally helpful, and harmless to overall health. By all means use them if you wish.

Counting steps

Q After I bought a tracking device, I try to walk 10,000 steps a day but is that enough?

New guidelines have pushed the count to 15,000 steps for cardiovascular health, but at an average pace that will take about three hours. This is a hefty time commitment! For exercise to be effective, you need to maintain target heart rate (220 minus age) for 10 minutes.

It is probably better to stand up every hour and walk a hundred steps so that a sedentary lifestyle is interrupted.  

The writer is a paediatrician with a family practice at Vellore and the author of Staying Healthy in Modern India. If you have any questions on health issues, please write to