By March 31, 2019 Health & Nutrition

This may not be something new. You must have heard it any number of times before this. But its worth repeating. Regular exercise is good for, especially as you age. The author makes the point about how exercise can lower risks of cardiac diseases as well as help you get a spring in your step. Team RetyrSmart


Just 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week can turn your life around — from lowering risks of heart diseases to flooding your body with endorphins.

Being physically active can ward off heart disease and stroke — the No. 1 and No. 5 killers, respectively, in the US —says the non-profit American Heart Association.

It is recommended that one does 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. Ideally, one should spend 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, exercising, but you can divide this into sessions of 10-15 minutes per day.

These can include climbing stairs, playing a sport, swimming, cycling or walking. I prefer walking, as there is neither a fee attached to this exercise nor the need for a partner like in ball games. Walking alone allows one to introspect — an experience that is in itself fulfilling.

Often, people dither over beginning aregimen, but even a small quantum of exercise is better than nothing. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

When you see people exercising, say, by walking for long periods, it becomes apparent that they are training towards a goal. Many try to achieve this by splitting their regimen between work and home, like taking the stairs and walking home.

Such aerobic exercises lower the heart rate and the blood pressure. In fact, certain studies state that exercise is as good as taking drugs for a heart disease, except under certain conditions such as heart failure. Remember that medication cannot be a total replacement for exercise.

You must invest in your health. Exercise can boost your immune system, releasing endorphins aka ‘the happy hormones’, which keep you at peace and are natural painkillers.

But don’t exert yourself to the point of exhaustion. The rule of the thumb is that you should be able to talk to someone while exercising and not be out of breath.

An article by Dr Jonathan Myers in Circulation 2003 of the American Heart Association says 2.5 lakh deaths occur in the US owing to a lack of physical activity. Physical exercise also has a protective effect on Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, the thinning of bones, and certain cancers like colonic cancers.

In 2007, less than one-third of Americans met the minimal requirement of exercise. Heart attack patients who exercise regularly reduce their chances of death by 20-25 per cent. This may be because exercise has beneficial effects on arterial function, lowers the ‘bad’ cholesterol, and increases the ‘good’ cholesterol.

Turning a completely sedentary life into a moderately active one is the most beneficial to health. Studies tell us, surprisingly, that going from moderately active to very active does not offer more health benefits. A study on the fitness of 6,213 men over six years is enlightening in this respect. It compared the risk of death with physical fitness. Healthy adults who were the least fit were more likely to die 4.5 times sooner than those deemed the most fit. Although surprising, it’s a truism that physical fitness is a better indicator of death, when compared with established risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

I’m often asked whether exercise poses risks to heart patients. It may be possible to have a heart attack or a rhythm disorder during exercise. But, this risk is extremely small, and ranges between 1in 4-8 lakh hours of exercise. For those with a pre-condition of heart disease, the risk is one in 62,000 hours.

I think it is more important to consider that such events are significantly lower among regular exercisers. Sedentary heart patients face a 50 times higher risk than regular exercisers. At least 90 per cent of the heart attacks occur at rest, and not during exercise. It is important that one begins slowly and works up to this goal.

Many research papers state that the affluent exercise more than those with lower incomes.

An article in the Journal of Preventive Medicine of August 17, 2017, says people with higher incomes tend to be ‘weekend warriors’, exercising only on their day off or the weekend. Individuals earning $75,000 per year were 1.6 times more likely to meet the physical exercise norms as compared to those earning less than $20,000 annually. Studies also tell us that active commuting is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

So, it’s time to put on your walking shoes, and begin. A few steps today will translate into half an hour soon.