Mumbai, exercise is good for getting fitter, but excess is bad
Different diets to lose weight faster, going that extra mile to get fitter or following someone else’s methods are all things you must not do
On June 29, a state-level shot put gold medallist died at a gym in Nalasopara.
CCTV footage showed Zenida Carvalho performing warm-ups before collapsing and succumbing to a cardiac arrest.
She was only 30 and appeared fit, but health expert Mickey Mehta cites this as an example of overdoing exercise — particularly extreme forms of exercise — especially when there is also an underlying health condition to take into account. Carvalho was diabetic.
A very common form of overdoing exercise these days, Mehta adds, is ‘extreme running’.
“I’d consider running for more than 5 km, three times a week, overdoing it. Apart from injury risks – especially on the treadmill — and stress to the heart, byproducts of excessive running include buildup of lactic acid and other toxins,” he says.
“Spot jogging, walking, or jogging outdoors is preferrable.”
In 2012, a study by the Mid America Heart Institute, published in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that exercising beyond a certain ‘dose’ leads to diminishing returns. The study’s subjects consisted of people who participated in marathons, ultramarathons, triathlons, and long bicycle races. These ‘extreme athletes’, according to the study, had a 50% increase in the enzyme troponin, released when the heart is in distress or even undergoing damage.
READ: Are you sure your child’s ‘chubby cheeks’ are not because of obesity? Get fitter
“Another common mistake is, when trying to lose weight, pushing oneself harder instead of resting when one reaches the plateau stage,” says nutritionist Ushma Chheda. “People in Mumbai are already fatigued, so intense workouts and ‘going that extra mile’ can take a toll. In fact, a good way to overcome a plateau is to rest, even if it means taking a week off exercise.”
Chheda adds the high protein-low carb diet often used to lose weight is not necessarily well-suited for Indians.
“A high-protein diet is all right for a short time, or if you have a fitness goal you need to get to. But the Indian diet has always been carb-based. Sticking to foods like boiled chicken and egg whites is not sustainable in the long run and should not be taken to extremes,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with roti-sabzi and dal-chawal.”
The dangers of a diet skewed too heavily towards one food group cannot be ignored. In the quest for optimum fitness or general wellness, its fat that first gets knocked off the food pyramid. This, says Pooja Makhija, is one of the worst things to do.
READ: Enough of muffins, pastries and vada pavs. Mumbai, start eating veggies and pulses to get fitter
“Fat gets a bad rep, but 90% of your brain is fat. And the joints draw on fat in your diet to stay healthy,” says the nutritionist and author of Eat, Delete, Junior. “While proteins are crucial for cell repair and growth, they will not function optimally in the absence of carbs. A balanced diet should in fact consist of 60-65% carbs.”
There is such a thing as excess water consumption too, says Makhija.
“Although 2-3 litres of water is advisable for an overwhelming majority, how much your body requires depends on your body size, weight, fluid loss and energy expenditure,” she adds. “Excess water can stress the heart and kidneys, and lower blood pressure.”
As with food, balance in exercise is key, says Mehta.
Whether it be 20-somethings or senior citizens, people put too much pressure on themselves to get to a certain point because they see others around them ‘going that extra mile’ or losing weight faster or gaining muscle better.
“Do things at your own pace. That should be your only mantra,” Mehta says. “Exercise should be a celebration, not punishment.”
I skipped my warm-up and dislocated my knee: Preet Nanda, student
Many trainers tell you to warm up before your workout but then let you slacken on this over time. The fact is that our bodies need time to adjust. I learnt this the hard way. I was late for my workout and chose to skip the 20-minute warm-up my trainer usually tells me to do. That day was ‘leg day’, so I grabbed two 20-kg dumbbells and starting doing lunges right away.On the eighth count, my right leg doubled under me and I experienced a blinding pain. I as howling; my sister had to come and pick me up and, along with my trainer, and rush me to hospital. I had dislocated my knee so badly, the kneecap was on one side. I wondered if my leg would ever heal fully. It did heal, but took four whole months, and it was harrowing. Never, ever cut straight to the chase or do a power workout without warming up.
Never underestimate the importance of sleep: Abdul Khatri, trainer, V Power Gym, Malad
Not resting your body well can have grave repercussions. I hadn’t got enough sleep and my body wasn’t really ready for a workout, but I went ahead anyway. I was getting ready to perform deadlifts, lifting the same weights I usually do. But the minute I lifted the barbell was when a searing pain shot down my lower back. The weights dropped from my hands and I couldn’t move for a few minutes. I had to be helped out of the gym. I ended up in bed for a full four days, with traction, because of a spasm in the lower back. Even after the traction, my back took over a month to heal completely. You become more prone to injuries when your body – specifically your muscles – are tense and not rested enough. Never underestimate the importance of adequate sleep.
Don’t push your body without fuelling it first: Kristoffer Kahn D’Silva, sprinter
What constitutes ‘overdoing’ exercise is different for each body. Once you’ve determined know how far you can go, stay within those limits. I run 10km every day and make it a point to do the regular warm-up track runs and stretches before a sprint. On the morning of June 2, I did the same, with one omission: I’d not had my usual pre-run bananas. All professional sprinters have to stick to a pre-run diet, because you need that energy boost before an intense run. Carbs play an important role here. But that day, I rushed to the track on an empty stomach.I ended up pulling a hamstring 60m into my run. I could only get back to jogging 15 days later; it was 25 days before I could do a high-intensity run. Overexertion may be a common cause of injuries, but so is lack of energy. Do not push your body without first giving it the nourishment it needs