Thursday, February 17, 2011


Amar Nath Mukherjee

Nature is our health fitness provider as such, more we are keeping away or insulate ourselves from nature, more often than not we are inviting myriads of avoidable infirmities and illness.
Therefore it is all the more imperative to imbibe the nature’s gift to the mankind earnestly. To elicit the various details of nature’s bounty to the mankind, given hereunder the foods that are conducive to keep us healthy and disease-free.
Our basic requirements of food are as follows – Carbohydrates, Proteins, Minerals, Fats, Fibres and Fluids. The required Vitamins are incorporated in the above mentioned food ingredients. But the balanced diet, depending absolutely upon the age, activity and avocation of the person, is of utmost importance.
In view of the above, some of the healthy food habits time tested to be suitable, particularly to the aged persons.

 Fats and sweets intake should be brought down to the minimum if not completely eliminated from the diet of the person who has crossed fifty years of age.
 The normal diet should comprise of at least 35 to 40% of raw food in the form of fruits, salads etc.
 Beside fats, deep fried foods and sweets should be avoided by overweight persons and even fruits like Mango, Banana, Sapodilla (Chikoo), Grapes etc. will have to be restricted.
 Thumb rule for determining desired weight for men is as follows –
(a) Convert the height in inches then change it to Kg. ± 1 Kg. tolerance; i.e if the man’s height is 5 feet and 7 inches, his ideal weight would be 5 X 12 + 7 = 67 Kg. ± 1 Kg.
(b) But for women it is to be determined as follows – a 5 feet tall woman should weigh 52 kg. and add 2 Kg. for every inch higher than 5 feet. In other words, the desired weight of a 5 feet 3 inches tall woman should be 52 + 3 X 2 = 58 Kg. with a tolerance of ± ½ kg.
 The desired weight of the person is absolutely necessary to maintain good condition of the knee-joints. In other words overweight is inimical to the upkeep of the knee joints.
 The maintenance of proper waistline is essentially required for proper functioning of our vital organs viz. Liver, Pancreas, Kidney, Stomach, Gallbladder, Spleen, Intestine etc., which are lodged inside our abomino-pelvic cavity. The waistline is disfigured mainly due to :
(a) Laxity of the abdominal muscle tone.
(b) Excess fat deposition of the abdomen.
 Besides aesthetic and psychological factors, there are sound health reasons why strong well toned abdominal muscles are essentially required.
 Firstly, our strong abdominal muscles support the membranes that keep the aforementioned vital organs in their original places, which enable them to function efficiently.
 Secondly, by giving support to the lower spine, firm abdominal muscle help avoid or eliminate lower back pain.
 And lastly, they can help prevent or clear up some of the complications of constipation. As such one should augment abdomen-strengthening exercises along with his daily workout like walking, jogging, stretching etc.
 The muscles in the back and the abdomen muscles support the lumber spine, hence the tone and flexibility of the back as well as abdominal muscles are essentially indispensable in keeping a healthy spine.
 There is a misconception that a person with back problem should never bend forward. But, in fact forward bending muscles are the biggest shock absorbers of the spine and if these are not utilized or mildly exercised, they tend to atrophy and become stiff, which results in increased load on the spine and in turn exacerbate pain with the slightest physical activity.
 The body’s requirement of water does not commensurate with the intensity of the thirst, hence for maintaining a healthy body one should drink about 8 to 10 glasses of water in a day irrespective of whether he feels thirsty or not.
 For the reduction of obesity it is advisable that one should drink at least a litre (about four glasses) of lukewarm water after getting up in the morning without even brushing teeth and not taking any food or liquid diet at least for an hour thereafter.
 Brushing of teeth should be done preferably twice in a day, once after lunch and then just after the last diet taken in the night. Usually most of the people opt to brush in the morning, which is not conducive to maintaining healthy gums or teeth as the food particles get lodges inside dental crevices and those get decomposed overnight in the mouth causing damages to the gums and teeth. Hence brushing only in the morning is not a good habit to maintain healthy gums and teeth.
 Unbalanced diet and overeating are considered to be the major causes of premature ageing. We generally overeat not only to satiate our hunger but to satisfy our tastebuds and over a period of time it becomes our habit. The total calorie that we get out of our diet are spent in three heads:
(a) For growth requirement
(b) For body’s metabolic activity
(c) For day to day physical activity we are engaged in
 After the puberty body’s growth requirement becomes insignificant, if not nil, but since food habits and its intake remains the same the surplus food tends to deposit as fat, consequent to which, waistline increases and in addition to this, lesser physical activity with advancing age results in laxity of the abdominal muscles, finally developing to a big paunch.
 Scientists earlier considered that the foods mainly comprising of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins and water are all that body needs. But further investigation reveals that a lot of other biologically active food component, called Enzymes, play an active role in all the metabolic activities that take place in the body.
 The Enzymes are essential for digestion of food, stimulating brain function and repairing tissues, organ’s, cells and as such without Enzymes our body can not assimilate the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins present in the foods, which are required for healthy bones, hair, skin, muscles, glands, hormones etc.
 Our body manufactures its own set of Enzymes to use it for digestion, assimilation, detoxification and elimination of waste. Nevertheless outsourcing of Enzymes in essentially required with advancement of our age. Since the Enzymes are extremely heat sensitive , they are destroyed during cooking. Hence raw foods like fruits, salads, sprouted grams, mung, nuts, should therefore be taken everyday, which should form a part of our regular diet.
 Since enzymes are not stored in the body, they have to be replenished with a regular supply of fresh fruits and raw salad to maintain the level of stock required by the body.
 The colourful pigments in fruits and vegetables wonderfully help us to fight diseases and infections. These pigments are known as phytochemicals and can be termed as hidden nutrients of fruits and vegetables. There are various types of these phytochemicals with tongue twisting names like phytosterols, polyphenols, carotenoids etc. etc.
 The National Institute of Nutrition carried out extensive studies on food containing phytochemicals and found out their antioxidant and detoxifying properties that effectively counteract the degenerative process in human body. Therefore the regular consumption of these coloured fruits like pink red apples, bright orange, yellow mangoes, papaya, blood red cherries, plum, deep purple grapes, jamun (blackberries), pineapple, tomatoes, leaves of spinach, methi (fenugreek), coriander leaves, mint leaves, beetroot, carrots etc. are essentially required. Since these phytochemicals are also heat sensitive, hygienically washed raw vegetables and fruits and salads are the best way to high nutrition intake.
 Fibre is another food item which does not provide energy or nutrient and yet it is of utmost importance to keep us in good health. It is that part of the plant which can not be digested, hence it passes through our gastrointestinal tract unchanged and acts just like a scrubber to clean the gastrointestinal tract of toxins, fats, wastes and even helps lower the cholesterol and controls blood sugar in diabetics. Because of its effect on reducing transit time of the stools, it greatly reduces the risk of colon cancer.
 In view of of the above try to include adequate roughage on our diet like whole grain cereals, sprouted pulses like mung, chana, fruits and vegetables, finally try to consume foods as close to their natural state as possible.
 Morning walk is supposed to be one of the best form of exercise a person can undertake without even requiring any expert’s guidance. But some of the tips the writer deems fit to mention hereunder for making the morning walk more effective to maximise the benefit thus obtained –
(a) The best time to go for a walk is in the transition phase between night and daybreak, since in the night the trees and plants continue expel carbon dioxide, atmosphere is thick with CO2 at night. Similarly in the late hours of morning the atmospheric pollution increases substantially; as such twilight is the best time to go for a walk.
(b) A person usually walks at a speed of about 1 km. in 10 to 12 minutes. Therefore 40 to 50 minutes of walking is sufficient to get the body fully warm up, after which time one should perform a bit of stretching exercise, which is necessary for the flexibility of all the joints, but mind you, the stretching should never be performed by jerky motion engendering problems of ligaments and muscles.
(c) To augment the advantages of walking one should incorporate a deep breathing exercise, which is known in YOGA as “Bhraman Pranyam”.
(d) The benefit from long walking is not fully achieved unless say about 10 to 15 minutes of “Shabasana” is performed thereafter. Shabasana is a complete relaxation in supine position (not soft bed, no pillow).
 As the name suggests, the Pranayam is to be performed during walking only. The method is very simple; it is like inhaling during first four steps and exhaling during subsequent six steps and going on repeating this breathing sequence for 10 to 15 minutes of walking at the beginning and then gradually increasing the time period. This consciously controlled breathing sequence should be tried out till one can perform this Pranayam during the entire duration of walking activity; it is noteworthy to mention here that at any point of time if somebody feels uneasy or out of breath then resort to normal breathing for some time and again resume the earlier sequence.
 The benefits of Bhraman Pranyam are many, particularly in increasing the air intake capacity of lungs. In normal breathing it gradually becomes very shallow, as a result, our lungs are deprived of adequate supply of oxygen thus impairing body’s metabolic activity.
Bhraman Pranyam is particularly beneficial to the old person with bronchial problem, asthma, recurrent cough and cold etc. The best breathing is the deep breathing more air at slower pace.
 Abdominal breathing or belly breathing is the way babies and the classical singers perform. Belly breathing helps establish a state of psychological calm and can neutralize negative effects of our stress.
 Perform the belly breathing specially when you are in “Shabasana” (deep relaxation in supine position). In belly breathing your abdomen will move up and down as you breathe in and out, which brings air down into the lower portion of our lungs by dropping the diaphragm down and the air is sucked into the deepest alveoli of the lungs where oxygen exchange in most efficient. One can practise belly breathing consciously throughout the day even when one goes to sleep and particularly in any stressful situation.
 High blood pressure or hypertension is a common health problem after the age of fifty and even some cases earlier and it is considered to be the silent killer; it has a deleterious effect on our kidney, heart, eyes and brain if it is not kept under control. The upper limit for normal blood pressure at this age is 140/90. Our heart beats over one hundred thousand times in a day and at every beat about half a cup of blood is pumped into the arteries and circulates through about one hundred and twenty thousand blood vessels before returning to the heart via veins and this activity goes on continuously and force exerted by the pumped blood against the artery walls is the blood pressure. There are two readings observed at the time of testing, the pressure peaks when the heart contracts (systole) and the pressure decreases when the heart relaxes (diastole). Now it is the diastolic pressure that determines the severity of hypertension since during this phase our continuously acting heart gets the opportunity to relax.
 Now the chronic elevation of pressure in the arteries forces the heart to pump harder and it gets enlarged to cope up with the increased work load, consequent to which heart becomes strained and pumps less blood with each beat.
 Since hypertension like diabetes becomes a lifelong companion at this age. Treatment and occasional check-up has to be lifelong too and lowering the blood pressure for a few months is of no value.
 Therefore hypertension control management has to be meticulously adhered to for keeping the body fit to avoid any probable complication, the treatment of which is expensive and also less effective.
 Besides regular medication under the guidance of a Physician, weight control measure with proper diet and regular exercise is equally important. Common salt and fatty foods have to be limited, one has to restrict intake of alcohol and tobacco and last but not the least one has to minimise stress as far as possible. Practise Shabasana & Bhraman Pranyam to alleviate the ill effects of stress.
 As per Dr. B.M. Hegde, who has several U.K. Medical Degrees and a visiting professor of Cardiology at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School of London University and presently the vice chancellor of the Manipal Academy of Higher education emphasizes on drug free regimen, stresses on diet and moderate exercise rather than on tablets and injections. According to him, only in the field of emergency care and that too mostly as a palliative, the modern medicines do have a part to play.
 Health and fitness activities can be classified into four main parts as follows:
(a) Cardiovascular conditioning
The Cardiovascular conditioning is achieved by jogging, brisk walking, swimming, cycling, cycling and running and even fast dancing, which are a part of aerobic activities that pump the heart and boost blood circulation of the body.
 By these activities we can improve and increase the efficiency of our heart and lungs function and help burn out unwanted fats too.
 But to achieve the desired goal we should be particular about the intensity of these activities. To measure the desired intensity we should elevate the function of our body to the aerobic zone i.e. the pulse rate should be around 70% of our maximum heart rate (MHR), (MHR = 220 – Age). As a rule of thumb, person of age 50 should have about 120 heart beats or pulse rate per minute during his cardiovascular activity.
 In view of the above it is suggested that one should occasionally check the pulse rate immediately upon stopping the activity as the heart rate begins to slow down very quickly at resting position. Needless to mention here that if the pulse rate is not even raised more than 60% of MHR, the desired result will not be achieved.
(b) Strength Training
 Strength Training means exercising with weights or by pulling and pushing against a device that offers resistance. Now there are two types of strength training exercise which are:
• Isotonic Exercise
• Isometric Exercise
 Isotonic exercises are meant particularly for body builders, who do it with a heavy load to increase and develop muscles of the body.
 The Isometric exercises, on the other hand, are meant for athletes, players, wrestlers, whereby they substantially increase the strengths of their muscles without resorting to a heavy load for exercising. It mainly comprises of pushing, pulling, stretching with a device that offers moderate to hard resistance.
 Now, for body fitness why a person, who neither wants to become a bodybuilder nor a wrestler nor an athlete, should require strength training; the reason being to slow down our gradual loss of the muscle mass and tone of our muscle which inevitably associated with our ageing process.
 By moderate strength training, we can certainly regain and decelerate the process of ageing, which is why, it is incorporated in health fitness activities.
(c) Stretching
 Stretching is a very important activity of our body fitness as without keeping our body flexible our muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints can not function properly.
(d) Relaxation
 Finally relaxation, which is a very important activity of our daily workout. After subjecting our body to the aforementioned activities our system does essentially require a period of relaxation preferably in Shabasana, for at least about 10 to 15 minutes. This is required for normalizing the entire body and mind together.
In concluding lines, I must say that our body is enormously resilient provided we maintain it religiously and use it with utmost care.


1 comment:

Shailesh Gupta said...