Exercise & Fittness for Women

Women’s day is around the corner and what can be more helpful than reliable and specific information on women’s fitness. Physical exercise, as you may know, is a planned repetition of bodily movements, done on a regular basis. Now let us look at some exercise principles for women.

The FITT principle is often used to describe an exercise session:

F – Frequency of exercise

I – Intensity of exercise

T – Time or duration of exercise

T – Type of exercise

Frequency refers to the number of times per day or week an exercise is done (eg. 2 times/day, 5 times/week). Intensity refers to the amount of effort that is required to perform the particular activity, which is expressed as a percentage of maximal oxygen consumption or maximal heart rate or in easy terms how breathless we become. Time/duration refers to the total time allotted for the exercise regime. Type of exercise refers to the different components of exercise namely – aerobic, resistance or strength, flexibility, balance etc.

Exercise guidelines for women do not differ much from the recommendations for the general population. Thus, the current global exercise recommendations are as follows:

As per the American Heart Association guidelines, every individual should exercise at least 5 days a week that is a minimum of 150 mins of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week, or 75 mins of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. In addition to this, they should do strength training exercises twice a week.

 

For women new to exercising 

  • Ideal start to exercise regime would be basic aerobic exercise like brisk walking, cycling, hiking or use of equipment’s such as stationery cycle or cross trainer for 30-45  mins on 3-5 days/week.
  • Adequate warm up of 10-15 mins prior to exercise and cool down of 5-10 mins post exercise is a must.
  • Strength training can be started after 4 weeks of regular aerobic exercise.

For women already exercising (following an exercise regime for more than 3-6 months)

  • Increase the exercise intensity and also try other training such as high intensity interval training, recreational sport activities and regular participation in sports events like marathon, hiking, cycling tour etc.
  • Adequate combination of strength and aerobic training can enhance your overall fitness.

 

 

 

    

Here are some exercise recommendations for some special populations of women:

Diabetes

  • Individuals on anti-diabetic treatment can do aerobic exercise of moderate intensity for 30-60 mins for 5-7 days/week and always keep some healthy snack like a fruit or water with electrolytes for use in case of low sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
  • Resistance training helps you to shed more calories and when combined with aerobic exercise is the best way to lose weight and normalize blood sugar.

Hypertension

  • For hypertensive individuals, aerobic exercise such as swimming, cycling and brisk walking is ideal. Resistance training can be added for better results at a later stage.
  • If your resting BP is above 200/100 mm-Hg do not exercise; consult your physician.
  • Avoid breath holding while exercising.
  • If you have nausea, giddiness or palpitations, stop the exercise session and consult your doctor; a low salt diet high fibre diet can help control BP.

Obesity & Overweight

  • Here the focus should be on exercise and proper diet. Calorie expenditure should be more than calorie intake (refer to calorie blog post).
  • The exercise session should be at-least 60 mins, 5-7 days a week with aerobic and strength training combined.
  • Increase the hours of physical activity per day to avoid weight regain.
  • Keep a positive health goal such as improved fitness or a better balanced diet rather than a negative goal like losing weight.

Dyslipidemia (Abnormal cholesterol level)

  • A combination of aerobic exercise, resistance training and flexibility training along with relaxation techniques like meditation will help improve your cholesterol.
  • A high fiber diet rich in fruits, veggies and whole grains is equally important.
  • Long term use of lipid lowering medications can cause muscle weakness and soreness. Kindly consult physician if so

Osteoporosis (Weak bones)

  • Here the main aim is work on weight bearing activities that enhance bone density and also help in strengthening your bones and muscles.
  • Exercising 5 days/week, 30-60 min per session on weight bearing aerobic activities such as walking, cycling, cross trainer and strength training helps to improve bone density and muscle mass
  • While working on strength training, avoid lifting heavy weights and handle the equipment’s with precautions

Post-menopausal women are at a higher risk of obesity, osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke and some cancers. It is important that they indulge in regular aerobic and strengthening exercises to keep these diseases at bay.

Breast cancer is a common malignancy affecting women of all ages these days. If you have a family history of breast cancer, periodic screening tests like mammogram can help to identify the disease early. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, balanced diet and a relaxed mindset is the key to preventing many cancers including breast and uterine cancers.

Hope the exercise and lifestyle recommendations are helpful for you and your loved ones in keeping good health!

Food delivery apps – a boon or a bane?

Nowadays, with a fast-paced life, it has become difficult to find time to cook at home! In today’s digitally connected world, food delivery at home is one of the most convenient services you can take advantage of. Food delivery apps are a new rage as they connect restaurants, cafes, sweet shops or any producer of ready-to-eat foods to the app owners to deliver food at their doorstep in a short time. In short, these apps act as a collaboration platform between the food hubs and the customers. As a dietician, I would like to share with you the pros and cons of ordering outside food so that you can make wise decisions.

ADVANTAGES:

Convenience

At present, a food delivery app is one of the most convenient services for everyone. Due to technology, with just a few clicks away on your phone, you can have a delicious hot meal delivered right at your house or office in an hour. Ordering food is great for busy people who may not have time to prepare a fully home-cooked meal. You don’t need to worry about what you’re going to eat next or if you have time to cook it and ensures that you won’t go hungry and will enjoy what you eat.

Saves Time

You don’t want to spend time shopping at the grocery store and buying the ingredients for your favourite meal, and then preparing and cooking at home. Instead, you can just call up your favourite restaurant and have your delicious food at home.

Choices are Endless

With endless varieties on the menu, you have a wide spectrum of food to choose from. This is especially true if you live in a city because the options are infinite. It also gives you a chance to try foods from different cultures. When cooking at home, we tend to stick to the local cuisine or the dishes we are comfortable making. When ordering food, you just have to order a dish that you like and satisfy your taste buds!!!

Coupons

Some restaurants and also certain apps offer rewards for ordering frequently, so they provide coupons for further upcoming orders. You don’t have to pay full price and can use these coupons and offers in future orders. This will save you some money while ordering your favourite food.

DISADVANTAGES:

On the contrary, the habit of ordering outside food can be addictive and dangerous to your health. Food poisoning, indigestion, acidity and food-borne infections in the short term and obesity, cholesterol problems, diabetes, hypertension, heart problems and other chronic disorders in the long term are the health hazards of this habit. Cancer is also known to occur due to the use of artificial flavouring and unhygienic cooking.

Expensive:

It’s undeniable that eating at home is much less expensive than ordering food or eating out. When you eat at home the labour cost is comparatively less to make your meal, you save on sales taxes and tips but if you order the food, you have to pay for everything. Just think of how much money you could save by making your own meal!

Consuming More Calories

When you order pizza, cheese loaded burgers or pastas, briyani or Indian sweets on a regular basis; you are consuming a diet high in calories and unhealthy fat. Even an order of salad or sandwich may be packed with hundreds of calories. When you order food, you probably have an idea of ingredients that are used to make your meal, but you can never be 100% sure. For instance, Chefs often use butter when frying something in a pan. But you might be unaware that 1 tablespoon of butter contains around 100calories. That’s a lot indeed! If you are looking to eat a healthy diet, then ordering food is definitely not an option.

Unaware of Restaurant’s Cleanliness

Another disadvantage is that you have no idea about the restaurant’s hygiene, cleanliness, and food processing and preparation conditions. Consuming unhygienic ally prepared food is sure to land you in illness. It’s always better to go with homemade food rather than eating food from a substandard place.

Cooking for Yourself

If you depend on outside food, then you will never successfully learn how to cook. Cooking is a skill that will benefit you throughout your life, so it doesn’t hurt to start early! When you grow older and have a family, you’ll like to cook at home as it is cheaper and also safe to administer, since you know the dark side. During holidays and celebrations, you’ll love to cook food for your guests too, rather than ordering it which may not impress them. When you stop ordering food and start to cook those recipes, and teach yourself how to cook some of your favourite meals, it will result in healthier eating habits and an improvement in overall health. Dedicating some time to cooking for yourself, you will definitely see a great change in your health and also in your bank account!

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Is It Worth It?

We know that ordering food is extremely convenient and will save you a lot of time especially if you are a bachelor, working out of town or new to the place. However, the money you spend on these can really add up to much higher than just cooking them at home. There is no clarity on what you’re eating and you might probably be consuming more calories than recommended or required. Additionally, the health hazards of eating outside food are numerous.

When you cook for yourself, you’ll save money and learn an essential lifelong skill. Taking a couple of  hours at the beginning of the week to prepare your food or making easy recipes on a daily basis are some tips to eat healthy home cooked food, save money and live a happy life without disease.

So the final verdict is it might be alright to have these apps on your phone and use them occasionally when home cooking is out of the question but making a habit out of this is definitely a NO-NO!

 

Stressors stressors all around!

Stress is nothing but our own body’s response to an external trigger or ‘stressor’. We have looked at how stress can lead to heart problems with a real patient example in an earlier post

(http://www.cardiacwellnessinstitute.com/heart-disease-treatment-prevention/uncategorized/beware-stress-can-kill/).

In fact, we are aware that almost all the parts of the body including blood vessels, skin, nerves, muscles, joints and all internal organs can start to dysfunction as a result of too much stress. So, let us take an in-depth look at stress and what causes it in this post.

The word ‘stress’ has been used for centuries to explain the concept of elasticity in Physics. It was only in the middle of the 20th century that the term stress got associated with biological stress by the Hungarian endocrinologist Hans Selye. And the term ‘stressor’ was also born at around the same time to refer to any external stimulus or environmental condition that causes stress in an organism.

In today’s modern world, stressors are all around us. Mounting stress in the system is more the norm than the exception. Stress has become the most difficult piece to solve the puzzle of skyrocketing lifestyle disorders.

There are only 2 ways to deal with this health crisis called stress:

  1. To prevent our body’s response to stressors
  2. To counter our body’s stress response effectively

If and only if the mind does not perceive the stressor as a stressor is it possible to prevent the body’s stress response. With a basic instinct to preserve and propagate our species, and with our inherent stress response as the most reliable resource to meeting that end from our cave-dwelling days, stress has become a double-edged sword in the modern world.

We know that every time our ancestors faced a threat to their lives in the past, stress hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol have helped them mount a “fight, fright and flight response” and survive the acute crisis. However, today, humans have gained such supreme powers on this planet that there is no threat to life on a daily basis but a myriad of stressors all around us that are perceived as serious threats instead. The acronym ‘NUTS’ is often used to describe the stressors faced by humankind today.

N – Novelty (eg. Any new situation like a change in a job or a new baby)

U – Unpredictability (eg. Inability to predict boss’s response or the weather)

T – Threat to ego (eg. When someone makes us feel incompetent or unreliable)

S – Sense of low control (eg. Lacking the power to change a difficult situation like job dissatisfaction)

Coming back to the 2 ways to deal with stress, we can either train our minds to not perceive everyday situations as serious threats, or build a capability to effectively overcome the mounting stress response, or both. The proven path to acquiring one or both of these defence mechanisms is to take the help of professionals who have expertise in dealing with psychological problems. Just like physicians diagnosing your physical health problems and giving you treatment, psychologists will be able to assess the seriousness of the emotional problem and suggest appropriate coping strategies.

Let us take the example of a young woman diagnosed with diabetes. She is 36 years old, has a full-time job and a family with 2 kids aged 10 and 7 years. This is a new and a definitely unpleasant situation for her to be in when things were going smoothly. She is unsure of how she is going to cope with the disease, the medications and the doctor visits and is especially concerned about the complications that it can lead to. She also feels she has no control over her health condition and is grappling with thoughts like “how did I get diabetes?”, “should I have taken better care of myself?” etc.

In our experience providing holistic healthcare solutions for individuals with chronic cardiorespiratory and metabolic diseases, psychosocial counselling is as important as anti-diabetic medications in this young person. This approach has not only helped people deal with the stress of their disease better but has also aided in reversing and completely curing the disease in many instances.

 

 

 

Calories – Inside Out

We all know that there is a close link between body weight and heart health. In fact, obesity or excessive body weight in relation to height, is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Regular exercise along with a healthy diet can help maintain physical, physiological and mental health. Many of us want to reduce weight; some of us wish to gain weight. An important thing to understand before making any weight management plan is the concept of calorie intake and calorie expenditure.

Calorie intake per day refers to the amount of calories that is being taken in the form of foods or supplements by an individual in a 24-hour period. Calorie expenditure refers to the amount of calories that is being burned out by an individual in the same time period. The overall working of our body relies on these two things, in short, on our body metabolism.

Now let us see what Positive calorie intake and Negative calorie intake are. Positive calorie intake refers to calorie intake being higher than calorie expenditure and negative refers to intake being lesser than expenditure.

Positive calorie intake = calorie intake > calorie expenditure = Weight Gain

Negative calorie intake = calorie intake < calorie expenditure = Weight Loss

In India, an average working individual consumes around 2100 – 2500 kcal in a normal day (weekday) and goes upto 3000 kcal during the weekends (outside food consumption). Our body at a resting state expends around 1200 – 1400 kcal for carrying out our basic functioning. Overall an individual has around 600 to 700 calories being left unused post consumption. This results in calorie overload, leading to weight gain.

Incorporation of physical activity and exercises can help in depleting the additional calories. Moreover, a minimal modification in the calorie intake with the help of a dietitian can help you shift from a positive calorie intake to a negative calorie intake resulting in weight loss.

Use of indoor equipments like treadmill, cycle ergometer, and cross trainer with adequate speed, inclination and resistance, burns around 300 – 400 kcal/hr. Outdoor activities such as jogging, swimming, brisk walking, hiking and cycling burns up-to 400 – 500 kcal/hr. Individuals involved in sports such as badminton, tennis, cricket, basketball, volleyball, football etc expend about 450 – 600 kcal/hr. Other activities like Zumba, Pilates, Yoga and Gymnasium can also help you loose your extra calories and attain an ideal body weight. If you are underweight and are planning to gain weight, it should be a healthy weight gain resulting from the intake of a healthy balanced diet and engaging in appropriate exercises rather than taking nutritional supplements, eating junk food and performing excessive exercises and succumbing to injuries.

Some important points to keep in mind with calories…

  1. 3,500 kcal = 0.45 kg of fat
  2. Adequate calorie expenditure = 200 – 400 kcal/day (or) 1000 – 1500 kcal/week
  3. Exercise 3-5 days/week for aerobic training, 2-3 days/week for resistance training and daily 15-20 minutes/day for abs and core training for more calorie expenditure
  4. Healthy weight loss = 1-2 kg/month
  5. Adequate calorie intake for weight loss =1600 – 1800 kcal/day
  6. Spend more time in outdoor activities and sports that you enjoy; it will help relieve your stress and expend those extra calories
  7. Incorporate a combination of workouts (rather than the same routine everyday) for better calorie expenditure
  8. High intensity interval training and resistance training burns calories even after the workout session.

Regular exercise and a good diet are sure to help you reach your health goals. Additionally, having an idea of your calorie intake and expenditure is important to maintain fitness and body weight. This is especially true for those of us who are diabetic, hypertensive, obese and diagnosed with heart problems. Better weight management is a sure-shot strategy to improved health metrics. Eat right, stay fit and always believe that you can!