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Good habits for a healthy life

Once health is compromised, care and repair of damaged organs is expensive and time-consuming. Illness negatively impacts earning capacity and lifestyle

Dr Gita Mathai Published 15.05.24, 04:48 AM
istock.com/svetlana larshina

istock.com/svetlana larshina

We live in a world where our health is of primary importance. Once health is compromised, care and repair of damaged organs is expensive and time-consuming. Illness negatively impacts earning capacity and lifestyle.

A healthy body needs to be the correct size. Try to achieve your ideal body weight (a BMI of 23-25). BMI is the weight divided by the height in metres squared. It may be challenging to achieve this, especially if you lead a sedentary life.

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Intermittent fasting or a different diet is optional for weight loss. Eating less is an easy way. How can you eat less? The Japanese style of eating food is easy to follow. Food can be served in small plates and bowls. You will automatically tend to eat less. Eat until the pangs of hunger disappear. Do not eat until you are full. Do not eat mindlessly and needlessly while engaged in other activities like watching TV or reading, and don’t overeat just because the food tastes good.

Exercise is essential, but how much? How often? Everybody wants precise numbers: 150 minutes a week or 10,000 steps a day? Or both? Running, swimming, fast walking, cycling should be done for at least two to two-and-a-half hours a week. This is the minimum requirement. But it is not beneficial if you do this at a slow pace. Remember to challenge yourself so that you try to walk a little further and a little faster.

Although repeated aerobic exercise strengthens your muscles, you must build endurance and stamina to work without fatigue, develop the cardiovascular system and increase mental strength. To build endurance, increase the distance, speed and time. If all three are impossible, push yourself to increase one.

Muscle strength is important as it helps balance and prevents falls and fractures. Do stationary weight exercises. Each set should consist of 20 or 30 repetitions and three to five sets should be done daily. Remember not to concentrate only on the upper body as then the lower body, which is responsible for balance and speed, will weaken.

Flexibility is important for making everyday tasks like walking upstairs and picking things up easier. If stretching and flexibility exercises are done regularly, they reduce stress and anxiety levels, improve mental clarity, reduce fatigue and improve circulation. They increase muscle elasticity and joint lubrication, and help to reduce the risk of injury and damage. Damaged joints may need to be replaced with metal and ceramic parts. These are major, expensive surgeries that probably can be avoided with a little effort and maintenance from a young age.

Sleep may seem like a waste of time, but it is essential for the repair and maintenance of the body. The less you sleep, the more stress you are likely to have, and the less time your body has to repair any minor damages and recover from illnesses. The amount of sleep that you require varies at different ages. Adults require seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Stress produces inflammation in the body, which aggravates lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension and reduces lifespan. To overcome stress, do relaxation exercises, yoga and meditation.

There are many substances — such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs — which will provide you with temporary euphoria, sleep and stress-busting. They will have a negative impact on your health. Many are cancer-producing. They affect brain function. They are habit-forming, and larger doses have to be taken for the same effect.

Building a social network is essential, whether with family and friends or a group with similar interests. It reduces depression, stress and anxiety and provides support in times of need.

Many people feel that they are too busy to find time for this but if you spend an hour everyday following these principles, you will live a long, healthy and happy life.

The writer has a family practice at Vellore and is the author of Staying Healthy in Modern India. If you have any questions on health issues please write to yourhealthgm@yahoo.co.in

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