“In endurance runners’ brains have greater functional connectivity than the brains of more sedentary individuals. The runners, overall, showed greater functional connectivity — or connections between distinct brain regions — within several areas of the brain, including the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is an important region for cognitive functions such as planning, decision-making, and the ability to switch attention between tasks. (Running May Enhance Brain Connections)”
Many amongst you may be thinking, what are endorphins? Endorphins are morphine-like substances secreted by the brain that is the bedrock of the ‘feel-good’ factor, driving optimism and energy as well as several aspects including immunity.
(This is part of another long term initiative I chose to drive understanding the impact and importance of this issue to our community. Initially, I will work with a small group of folks from our community, and understanding the success factor, I will expand to a bigger group. You will see me blogging on this as part of this initiative).
As you already know, the pain point with us all is motivation. We all lack the motivation to go to the Gym or simply walk up and down the rails at home or another exercise. We do take an episodic bout of exercise that lasts a few days or at best occasional week. Second, the compulsions of real life are really rigorous enough to abandon our episodic enthusiasm. If that’s not the only reason, some amongst us travel and crash back to our bed on our return.
Our Sedentary (Indian) Life Style – What happens & When?
- Lungs – Do you know that between the age of 35 – 40, we all start losing 1% of our lung capacity? Do you know that if we are engaged in regular moderate physical exercise, we tend to arrest that decline?
- Vegetarian Meals – Do you know our carb rich vegetarian diet tend to get converted to fats in the absence of exercise? We tend to put on fat despite eating fat restricted diet?
- No Exercise – Do you know our heart tends to lose its ejection ability (ejection fraction)? Heart too gets deconditioned not doing exercise.
- No Exercise – Do you know, our muscles steadily lose their strength and tone, and eventually, it becomes small if not atrophied?
- Bones – Do you know, our skeletal system is highly dependent on the health of our muscles, that once these muscles get decompensated, they lose the tone and we tend to injure our joints? Some reflections are prolapse disc, radiating pain, increase wear and tear of joints due to imbalance of agonist and antagonist muscles?
- Brain – Do you know that our brain (dendrites) loses its networking potential between the neurons and we tend to accumulate the senile plaque and other material at a faster pace due to inactivity? You may want to know what Senile Plaque – simply speaking, we lose our memory faster with inactivity.
- Diabetes – Do you know, in the absence of moderate to vigorous exercises, we increase peripheral resistance to glucose and eventually end up with type 2 diabetes?
Well, none of these happens overnight but the decline has already started and all of these provide a huge background to most future illnesses (of aging or late adulthood). We all know, lack of exercise takes a daily toll on our health. American Heart Association considers a lack of habitual physical activity as the fourth major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Our cardiac, respiratory, metabolic, musculoskeletal, nervous, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems all need a vigorous physically active program to keep those healthy.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Healthy People Guidelines, in adults and older adults, physical activity can lower the risk of:
We think we are healthy, but –
Our lifestyle, sedentary and food habits strongly predispose us to –
- Early death
- Coronary heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Breast and colon cancer
By adding exercise to our routine, we tend not only to slow down the decline but simultaneously build our mental health and be more optimistic and productive? While we do a physical workout, we tend to not alone increase our physical health coefficient our mood and perception, as well as our ability to deal with stress and our quantitative efforts at work. This is because brain secrets, ‘feelgood’ chemicals – endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that helps to rejuvenate us.
Folks, there is one simple thing that stops these daily aggregation of risk –
I am working on overcoming our lack of motivation using multiple approaches. One of those is getting a trainer for training. If the pilot runs successfully, we will book a space where we can participate in group exercises with trainers hired on an hourly basis. I have not run out of options, if these won’t work, I will be more creative and come up with more options.
However, I am strongly opposed to directly jumping on the exercise bandwagon and break whatever we have. We need to
- Customize as per individual body habitus
- Develop a comprehensive plan (Endurance/Aerobics, Yoga, Resistance, Strength, Flexibility, etc. I will cover individual topics eventually, watch this space!)
- Ramp up our exercise program.
Very few know that exercise, Yoga, Tai Chi, or any other physical activities are not generic and need customization. Everybody is different and every individual is in a different state of health at different points in time. Consequently, a tailored approach is key to success. Not all exercises from Gym are suitable for all, the same holds true about Yoga or Tai Chi. Unfortunately, our trainers are inadequately educated with a medical understanding of our body to provide a customized program. Though doctors are trained, unfortunately, they only know polar ends, normal health, and diseases condition. If something is not diseased, it is normal. However, practically, very often we fall in the gray zone. Summarily, we definitely can’t rely on our trainers and our doctors don’t have time to understand the needs of our normal bodies and provide a kinesthetic plan for our wellbeing.
Second, a ramp-up is equally important. Presuming we have no underlying health issue, we cannot suddenly start with any exercise, be it jogging, running, swimming, or any of the aerobics or resistance training. We need to ramp up gradually and we need to recruit different groups incrementally in a coordinated fashion. Before establishing an overall fitness base and maximizing athletic development, one should go through step by step ramp up the program with numerous exercises that safely increase coordination, flexibility, speed, strength, and endurance.
What will motivate us and get us going into a regular exercise schedule? I believe, commitment, discipline, motivation, and a group fun-filled activity will do that. I feel, getting a trainer will help circumvent a lot of these inertias. We still have to work with other factors like choosing right exercises customized to our own body types, gradual ramp-up, and adding multiple types of exercises, such as Yoga, Cardio, Resistance Training, Strengthening Small Muscle groups, etc. Of course, exercise is not a panacea but offers a solid beginning and foundation. Getting good sleep and eating healthy are other things. However, the scope of this article is restricted to exercise and I will continue talking about exercise.
I am undertaking this community initiative for the zero-sum game despite a cost to my time and efforts, simply to get us all embarked on a community exercise plan. I will do a free physical evaluation (based on guidelines from the American Academy of Sports and Physical Medicine) and will provide an explanation of the best options for selecting the exercises plus the best plan to ramp up. All I need is your cooperation.
As proof of concept, I am planning to call a trainer at home whose responsibility will be to get us going at a particular time. He/She will keep us all motivated. Initially, I will have 5-6 folks to start with. We will find a time according to mutual convenience. The venue will be my home and we will start immediately, if possible. What do you say?
PS: Watch this space as I keep updating it with different types of exercises (including videos), guidelines, and how best to tailor exercises to our body’s state and needs.
US Gov Guidelines –