A lazy beginner's guide for physical activities

Many people have been exhausted talking about the importance of doing regular physical activity. Of course, it is required for not letting our joints, muscles, organs, heart, kidney, brain, etc. rust in the idleness. Just like diesel engine car. You must keep it running, lest it rusts away. Then, you need to do physical activities to reduce weight also. Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, depression, etc.

According to WHO, to prevent or reduce the risk of chronic diseases, it is recommended that each week an adult should do -

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or

  • 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or

  • an equivalent combination.

A person who moves toward greater duration or more vigorous intensity of physical activity a week gets even greater benefit.

For our discussion below, “exercise” shall include aerobic activities i.e. gym exercise, running, walking, yoga, swimming, etc.

Physical activity components can be talked as:

  1. Duration

  2. Intensity (exertion)

  3. Frequency (repetition)

Goal of exercise:

  • Just be better than your own last performance. At least, doing the same as last time.

  • Exercise releases hormones and chemicals in our body such as serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, etc. These hormones help us in creating positive feelings like happiness, pleasure, much improved digestion and sleep, decreased pain, etc. Exercise is a 100% sure activity which makes you relieved, stress-free and happy. This itself is an objective in our otherwise really stressful life.

  • Our goal is to be so fit that we would not need medicines, doctors, or hospitals.

  • Adults aged 60 years and older too gain substantial health benefits from regular physical activity. It’s never too late to start being physically active.

Location of exercise:

  • Try to do exercise in an outdoor setting, preferably in the daytime. Walking on soil/ground/grass is to be preferred. Find a ground/park nearby.

  • You must get direct sunlight exposure for at least an hour per day. Sunlight has a natural stimulating effect on the cells of our body. Sunlight is also the only source of Vitamin D, which is required for controlling blood pressure, increasing immunity, reducing joint pain and arthritis, etc. It is required for releasing energy in the body.

  • If ground is not available, then walk on the less crowded road.

  • Wear shoes for outdoor activities.

  • Indoor exercise is the last prefered mode of exercise. Aerobic exercise / yoga needs to be done inside home. But ensure that you get sunlight some time in the day.

Intensity of exercise / walking / steps

  • Intensity (speed /exertion) matters a lot. Low intensity exercise (walking / aerobics) has few benefits.

  • Walking less steps fast is much more effective than walking more steps slowly. For example, walking 3-4 km (3000-4000 steps) faster is a lot more beneficial than walking 7000-8000 steps slowly. Similarly, doing 75 mins/week of vigorous exercise is equivalent to 150 mins/week of moderate exercise.

  • At the same time, it must be mentioned that it is much better to walk something, even if slowly, than not walk at all.

  • Increase your pace of walking slowly over a few days, in case you are not used to walking fast.

Move more, Sit less

  • Do NOT sit continuously for more than 30 minutes at a time.

  • After every 30 mins, get up and walk around, do some chores around the house or office.

  • Always remember, some physical activity is much better than none.

  • Sitting is the new smoking!

Lack of time

  • We often have the desire to exercise, but we lack the uninterrupted time for that.

  • Fixing a time of 30-60 min every day is one solution.

  • Choose morning time for exercise compared to evening time. If you miss it in the morning, you can exercise in the evening. But if you miss in the evening, then you miss exercise for the whole day.

  • If you are not able to set aside consecutive time, you can also set aside 3-6 short bouts of 10 mins of moderate exercise every day. Your cumulative exercise throughout the day matters.

Physical activity after meals

  • We often lay down on the bed/sofa immediately after lunch or dinner. It is a very harmful practice. However tired you may be, do NOT do that.

  • After meals, spend at least 30-60 mins before you lay down on the bed/sofa. Traditional practice of walking after dinner (“shatapaavali") is meaningful.

  • Do walk for 10-15 mins after meals, it will substantially reduce your blood sugar levels after meals, prevent weight gain and abdomen obesity (paunch/dheri), reduce high blood pressure, indigestion and give early & sound sleep.

Breathing while exercising

  • Steady and deep in & out through the nose.

  • Inhale when opening the front of the body or right before muscle lengthening part of the motion. Eg. backward bending, raising head & arms. (Away from earth)

  • Exhale when compressing the front of the body or during muscle-shortening part of the motion. Eg. Forward & sideways bending. (Towards earth)

  • Deep breathing - when you inhale, your stomach swells out, followed by your chest and while you exhale your stomach goes in, followed by your chest - this is deep breathing. Use abdominal / diaphragmatic muscles to breathe, do not breathe just through the upper chest.

  • Keep your lips closed during exercise. Breathe in and out through the nose or, when the intensity increases, through the mouth.

Rhythm of exercise, breathing and mind

  • Any exercise must achieve balance of movement, breathing and mind. This takes months of practice to achieve. But that is the nirvana of exercise.

  • You should strive to regularise breathing - breath at a constant rate. Focus on breathing while exercising (inhale - hold - exhale OR inhale - exhale cycle).

Aerobic Activity

  • Aerobic activities, also called cardio or endurance activities, are physical activities in which people move their large muscles in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time.

  • Running, brisk walking, bicycling, playing badminton, dancing, and swimming are all examples of aerobic activities.

  • Always warm up slowly for aerobic exercises.

  • Regular aerobic activity makes your heart, lungs, circulation & brain stronger and fitter.

Heavy/Difficult/Faster vs Repetition

  • This is often a question for everybody. Whether you should lift heavy weights / run faster / difficult yoga OR walk/run more kilometers / do more number of light weights / more repetitions of easy yoga?

  • It is preferable to do more repetitions than immediately moving to higher or difficult intensity exercises. Adding more repetitions helps you focus more on the form and technique. It helps you build mind-muscle-breath connection.

Eating and Drinking

  • Do not eat 1-2 hours before and after the exercise.

  • Drink water during and after exercise. Keep yourself hydrated.

  • Detoxify yourself by sweating out the next day after having alcohol or smoking.

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