Exercise & Rest
In the past 15-20 years it
has been found that we usually breath too shallowly. Especially when we are stressed
or concentrated on our work. Working on computers has made us aware of the need
to take a break every hour, at least, and take some deep breaths. Aerobic exercise
has been found essential to provide that air we need to manage good combustion
of our food. Poor combustion least to free radicals, which are partially oxidised
molecules that are linked to cancer.
When exercising we need both
air and water. Air is needed to help the combustion of the nutrients to give us
energy. This is especially important for our heart. If it does not get enough
oxygen it short circuits and stops running properly. Therefore, it is important
that we assure good circulation, which we build up slowly through fitness exercises.
Also avoid smoking, which not only contaminates the air, but also narrows the
blood vessels, constricting its flow and thus the supply of air.
Water is needed to keep everything
in our body moving that includes the nutrients as well as the intoxicants. When
exercising, we need to drink enough water to make up for the loss by evaporation
and sweating. Dehydration causes headaches and can be fatal. Avoid drinking alcoholic
beverages when exercising, as that puts an additional load on our water requirement
and also slows down our system, when we need it most.
Over-exertion of an unfit body
may cause it to collapse. So, don't run after a bus, or shovel snow (here in Canada)
if you are not physically fit. Fitness may be defined as 'the preparedness of
the body for a sudden energy surge'.
If we don't exercise regularly, our body can't do it, it does not have the circulation
system to provide the blood flow needed to supply the oxygen. Overweight adds
an other dimension to the problem: The air and blood supply needed are proportional
to the energy required to move the mass. The greater the mass, the greater the
need for supplies.
Fitness is developed over
time by exercises that push us just a bit beyond our comfort level. These then
cause new blood vessels to form in response to the body's need for more blood
and oxygen. Therefore, it is best to exercise every other day. That will give
us one day to push the envelope and another to grow the vessels. Then back to
number one again.
Ideally we exercise all
of our muscles. Therefore, our fitness program should be broad and varied. Walking,
running, bicycling, roller blading, skiing, dancing, and step exercises are
very popular for that reason. Athletic sports are a different matter though.
Recent studies have proven
that exercise can prevent many diseases previously associated with aging. If
not too badly damaged, an aging body can even be restored by exercise.
Osteoporosis and heart disease are the most publicized ones, but cancer, high
blood pressure, arthritis are also avoided by regular exercise. Please note
that this does not mean streneous exercise, but cardiovascular exercise. Health
Canada, in co-operation with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, recently
published a 'Physical Activity Guide' and a 'Physical Activity Handbook', both
can be downloaded from the Web at
Athletic exercises differ from
fitness exercises, as they are designed to develop specific muscles. e.g. Tennis
tends to develop the right arm. Our concern however, is not with the muscle development
but with the possible overuse of the bursa, which are the smooth cartilage coatings
on the joints. 'Tennis elbow' and 'Squash knees' are the result of gradually wearing
out these surfaces, mainly by the shocks they receive. These can be made worse
by urea deposits or calcium deposits due to poor nutrition.
Initially, 15 minutes every
other day is sufficient to get going. This can be increased to 30 minutes or more
per day after about one month. Some people prefer them after work, as it
helps a lot to bring the stress level down and get the oxygen back into the body.
Others swear by doing it at the beginning of the day, to give them the 'oxygen
high' to face their difficult tasks. Hey, if you are really enthusiastic, you
can do both!
Don't overdo it. You don't
need to become an Olympic athlete.
Also, exercise makes you
hungry. Be careful exercising on an empty stomach, as it may make you dizzy,
when your blood sugar drops below the normal level. In that case have a small
snack before and after. (No sweets though!). Don't exercise on a full stomach
either, as it may draw too much blood to your internal organs to digest your
How do you cope with that?
Athletes say that you must eat pasta and other complex carbohydrates the evening
before your exercise. That will build you the reserves you need.
Rest and sleep are designed
to rebuild our body after its daily tasks. They are needed to help us relax from
the stress we had during the day. Sleep is needed to restore the body and to store
the memories of the experiences. Ideally, we have a 5 minute rest period every
hour. Alternatively a 15 minute break every 2 hours.
Caution: Sitting for too
long causes undesirable changes in the shape of the body. Best is to alternate
sitting and walking tasks.
Meditation can restore
the mind from stress at a much faster rate that changing a task only. A 15 minute
meditation can be as good as a 1 hour sleep. It is a great way to recharge your
batteries in the middle of the day.
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