Physical activities during lockdown is necessary to overcome the health issues.
Physical Exercise (PE) may appear dull and boring to many. Gyms are always a preferred destination for all of us. PE involves wearing gear, warming up and going out to the ground for a boring routine of stretching and jumping. But Physical Activity (PA) is a much broader term encompassing PE, walking, cycling, gardening or even carrying weights and many more.
The benefits of PA are numerous and extend not only to our physical health but to our mental, social and spiritual well being too. Regular PA increases certain hormones in our body which reduces stress, improves mood and allows better sleep. A moderate set of PA for just half an hour a day, over a period of time, strengthens our immune system. This prevents infections, especially of the lungs. It also prevents many diseases and in general, increases our healthy life span. People who go for early morning long walks or go for runs in green areas including parks report a connection with nature’s flora and fauna. A sense of spiritual exhilaration.
For getting the best results from PA one needs to know the different types of activities/ exercises and their benefits. For simplicity sake, I describe them as the 4Ss. These are Stamina or endurance, Strength, Suppleness or Flexibility and Steadiness or Balance.
Stamina and Endurance
Routine physical activities are the commonest form of exercise done by all of us. If done fast enough, the simple act of walking or even mopping the floor causes breathlessness and sweating. There are many activities like brisk walking, jogging or running, dancing, cycling, swimming, climbing on stairs or hills, digging in the garden or fields, manual sweeping and mopping and skipping, which could cut down our calories. These low-intensity activities could prevent diseases or reduce the severity of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and respiratory diseases including COVID19. Few other benefits are improvement of skin texture, reduce stress, gives better sleep, reduces weight and improves muscle strength besides improving blood circulation and sexual performance. Even half hour walk also would do the trick.
Muscle strength is very important as we age. Immobility of the body for a couple results in weakening of the muscles. Legs need to be strong so that one can stand for longer duration. Strong arms are needed to pick up our children and other heavy stuffs. In fact, all muscles need exercise and we can achieve thhis by doing various jobs at the home, office or outside. There are many ways to do it apart lifting weights in a gym. Activities like the lifting of weight, skipping, digging, carrying children or grandchildren, push-ups on the floor and against a wall and climbing stairs would certainly keep the muscle strength high. The benefits include improvement in bone density, preventing frozen joints, reduce joint pains including backaches, reduces blood sugar and even control body weight.
How much activities need to be done also can be worked out. It could be done on alternate days. For those over 65 twice a week is sufficient. Heavyweight training should be taken after getting advice from experts. Resistance bands are cheap and numerous exercises can be done with the help of videos. One must stop the activity when the muscles ‘speak’ of tiredness.
Suppleness or Flexibility
The muscles which are not exercised grow weak and the joints get stiff. The movements of these joints become painful and less in range. For this reason, for example, one may not be able to bend to tie our shoelaces. In other people an occasional over-use causes muscles to strain and ache. To prevent such happenings one needs PA for improving their suppleness. Slow stretching yogic postures are the best form of PA for getting Suppleness of our muscles. Apart from Yoga, pilates can be practised. Slow stretching of muscles groups can be done at home including special exercise videos for the back, thighs and ankles. This Reduces muscles tension and strains, prevent back muscle spasms and aches. It will also prevent frozen joints and reduces mental tension. The basic stretches can be done daily and morning would be ideal for a duration of five minutes. However the full range of exercises may require up to half an hour and should be done thrice a week
Steadiness of Balance
This PA is, more often than not, overlooked by many people who tend to focus just on strength and stamina. Many young people don’t even know how important the ‘sense of balance’ or proprioception is for us. As the bones become fragile in old age fractures are common. Hence PA required for remaining steady. The soles of our feet have receptors for keeping our body stable. Inside our homes, we should walk around barefoot. We may also try to do activities barefoot, whatever we can comfortably do. This will help our sense of balance. Specific exercises include standing on one leg in ‘crane position’, walking on a railing or a beam, toe to heel walking, walking backwards or even Tai chi or yogic postures
A few points to be kept in mind while we engage in activities at home. Those having a disease or disability or those above 40 years must seek medical advice from their doctor on the quality and quantity of exercise/ activity. Warming up the body is extremely essential before starting any exercise. A two-minute walk with arms swinging is enough. Hydration is very important, especially in summers and monsoons. A simple salt and sugar solution with fresh lime is quite refreshing. Start small. After all, Rome was not built in a day. Increase quality and quantity of activities slowly.
Stop the exercise when it pains us. We can take a day off during the week. The rest day should be kept for learning/practising breathing exercises (including pranayama). Senior citizens can take two days of rest a week. We could keep an exercise diary. Write the goal in mind and the quantum of activity done. Remember, each person is unique. We have different length and shape of muscles and joints may have different angles. Hence, there should be no comparison. Enjoy your Physical Activities!!
Image Courtesy https://genkris.wordpress.com/2021/06/13/physical-activities-and-their-advantages/
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies