Time to move it, move it

Your Health

By Dr Gita Mathai
  • Published 20.12.17

You need to exercise regularly to maintain health, prevent weight gain, delay the onset of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, slow mental decline and even avert some cancers. It is essential for correct posture, restful sleep and a good mood. After an hour of working out, no problem seems insurmountable. The question, however, is "Just how much exercise is enough?"

Originally, 70 years ago, 10,000 steps per day was considered sufficient to maintain health. That translates to 5 miles or 8 kilometres. A sedentary person, who works at home or in an office, averages 1,500 to 3,000 steps a day.

People want to be fit. These publicised step statistics led to increased sales of wearable fitness devices, which calculated the number of steps taken. People became fixated on numbers and tried to frantically complete the requirement before bed.

After a series of studies, the number of steps needed per day to maintain health has been increased from 10,000 to 15,000. Usually, we take 100 steps a minute when we are walking fast. At this speed, it is possible to have short bursts of conversation. During speed walking or jogging, we take around 130 steps per minute. This means a person would need to walk for little more than two hours for 15,000 steps. Many of us cannot spare that much time!

Fortunately, continuous short bursts of activity throughout the day are also beneficial and more likely to result in sustained weight loss and fitness. After an intense 30-minute walk or run, if you sit at your desk the rest of the day (eight hours), you are unlikely to reach your 10,000-15,000 steps a day target. Also, despite all the effort, your lifestyle will be classified as "sedentary", with all its accompanying risks.

Hitting the gym is a popular concept among the fitness conscious. Unfortunately, studies show that gym memberships in India are more expensive than in Australia or the US. The timings are often inconvenient and the commute problematic. Motivation often dips after a few months. Since many gyms insist on advance payment for the whole year, money is often wasted.

Walking on the road is free. It is also possible to draw a figure of 8 on the terrace or the living room and walk for 30-40 minutes.

In addition to active exercise, muscles strength can be achieved with resistance exercises using dumb bells - 2kg for women and 5kg for men. This helps build muscle mass to support back, abdomen, knees, chest, neck and shoulders. Strong muscles speed up metabolism and increase endurance. Core exercises strengthen the spine, so you are less likely to suffer from degeneration, slipped discs and backache. Strong muscles burn calories faster and more efficiently, helping with weight loss.

Both the body and mind need healthy activities. Regular exercise releases chemicals from the leg muscles that keep the brain active. Irregular sleeping hours, late night television and texting take a toll on health. These produce a sluggish brain and a craving for unhealthy fatty foods, starting you off on that vicious circle of fighting weight gain again.


• Have a heavy, protein-rich breakfast to give metabolism an early start

• Coffee, regular and green tea are also metabolic enhancers

• Skip the second drink to stop your metabolism turning sluggish

• Make weight training a part of your exercise regime to maintain muscle mass, which burns more calories than fat