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Back to basics

health-and-fitness Updated: Jul 17, 2010 18:29 IST
Dr Shikha Sharma
Dr Shikha Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

What do you think good health means? Some people think it means not being ill. Some think it means looking healthy, even if their blood pressure is high. Others imagine that if they’re fit, they’re fine – even if they suffer from some psychological disorder, such as addiction. And for many of us in India, the word ‘healthy’ refers to an overweight person!

So what is good health? Simply, it is achieved by a sincere intention to be healthy. A series of flirtations will not produce long lasting results. If you’re committed to it, there are five basic principles to mind.

1. Be consistent: If you aren’t, even the best-designed package of diet and exercise will not have an effect on your system. Most of us tend to switch diet and exercise plans out of boredom. But there’s a reason why people in the glamour world look the way they do. They stick to their programmes with dedication.

For instance, weight loss is a big issue with many people. Yet, they want to shed weight fast – which is unhealthy. Slow and steady is the best way. A target of a kilo a month means 12 kilos off in a year. To change your body, you need about 12-18 months – and that has to be followed by a schedule of healthy eating and exercise for the rest of your life.
So keep in mind that consistency should constitute 80 per cent of your programme.

2. Keep moving: Whether you jog, swim, dance, gym or play a sport, the important thing is to keep your muscles active. Otherwise, they will deteriorate, which means greater strain on the skeletal system. Your exercise plan should include routines for flexibility, strengthening of spine and muscles, and cardiovascular and lungs training. Exercise helps you lose weight, is relaxing, and if you do it outdoors, gives you a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Plus, it helps you sweat – and that’s great for removing toxins.

Yoga3. Find a balance: None of us is a machine. So it’s natural that every now and then, we let go of our health plan, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. But binge eating or drinking, extreme diets and punishing exercise schedules are all signs of an internal imbalance. Balance is about accepting both good days and bad, and continuing with the effort regardless. Many of us give up too soon. We have unhealthy habits and practices that can’t be wished away overnight. Remember that it takes years to replace bad habits.

4. Sleep well: If you sleep badly, your mind and your body suffer. Lack of sleep makes you vulnerable to stress and when you are stressed, the internal environment of the body becomes acidic, which makes your system hyper reactive. So, aim for mental relaxation via music, chanting, meditation and pranayam. If you’re mentally relaxed, you will find physical relaxation easier. Plus, you will be able to stay focused on your diet and exercise plans.

5. Eat according to your body type: If you manage to pull this off even 30 per cent of the time, it will go a long way to keeping you fit.

First, make sure you drink enough water. The balance of the body’s acid base is maintained by drinking enough water to allow toxins to be cleansed via sweat, breath and urination. Water needs vary according to weather and body type, so it could range from eight glasses a day to three litres a day. The best way to check your natural need for water is to avoid tea, coffee and cold drinks for a day and see how many times you want a beverage. That’s how many times you actually want water.

Next, make sure there’s enough fibre in your diet – and that it comes from natural sources such as unpolished rice, broken wheat or dalia, dals with chhilka, fruits and vegetables. Lack of fibre causes diseases like obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. Fibre is naturally present in plant foods, but we remove it by processing. By switching to whole grains, we increase the amount of fibre in our diets, and eat less calorie dense foods.

Make sure you get healthy oils in your diet by eating nuts and oil seeds. Finally, include superfoods like aloe vera, wheatgrass juice, barleygrass juice, spirulina proteins and tulsi in your routine.