Eating a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables and adopting healthy cuisines from around the world is a great way to try new foods and improve your health1. While eating healthy is a great way to live a longer, exercising is just as important for a more productive life.
With the onset of COVID, exercise was on the back burner for many people and this does not exclude the Asian Indian community2.
Increased food consumption and decreased physical activity has impacted the health of Asian Indian community to a greater extent with a huge spike in their medical problems and weight, adding to the existing burden of pre-diabetes, diabetes and heart disease.
A recent study found that South Asian patients have signs of cardiac aging earlier in life, which may contribute to the increased cardiovascular disease mortality which may go unnoticed in a clinical setting. This notion is supported by the finding that normal‐weight South Asians have a high prevalence of cardiometabolic abnormalities and traditional risk calculation tools, such as the Framingham Risk Score, underestimate risk for Asian Indians3.
Current research heavily emphasizes the benefits of exercise for all but with special emphasis on South Asian population. Some studies even suggest that South Asian men and women need to undertake ~230 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. This equates to South Asians undertaking an extra 10–15 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per day on top of existing recommendations.
We are aware that exercising helps the body use food efficiently to function optimally. It is not only what you put in your body – it’s what your body does with it. Listed below are some examples of the benefits of physical activity.
Benefits of Physical Activity:
- Reduces risk of cancer, heart disease and many modern-day medical problems, including Insulin resistance which is the leading cause of most common inflammatory problems.
- Aids in nutrient uptake into cells and lower blood sugars by activating cellular receptors that break down food and use it for energy (eating a small snack before a workout and a larger meal after a workout may be beneficial for weight loss).
- Improves mood by releasing endorphins that make you feel good, which aids in stress relief and better sleep.
- Increases lean muscle mass and bone strength.
- Boosts immune system by moving lymphatic tissues and fluids throughout the body to fight infections (especially needed during COVID).
- Strength training and High Intensity Interval training also known as HIIT decreases body fat by increasing your growth hormone levels.
- And the list goes on…
Below are the types of exercises you could try for a well-rounded practice and overall health. Choose a combination that works for you, change it up every so often, and create new goals as you get stronger
1) Endurance – strengthens cardiovascular system by raising the heart rate and expanding the lung capacity. Exercising your heart and lungs increases movement in the circulatory system, which aids in lowering your blood pressure and reduces chronic disease risk. Endurance training burns calories, which supports any weight loss program.
- Examples include: walking, jogging, swimming, biking, aerobics, dancing, etc. or any exercise or movement that increases your heart rate.
- Recommended to perform at least 2.5 hours a week (or at least 75 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity) or 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week4
2) Strength – increases lean muscle mass and burns fat, which helps give you a lean appearance, and builds strength for performing daily activities. Strength training also builds your bones as well which protects against osteoporosis and fractures.
- Examples include: lifting weights, using resistance bands, body weight exercises or calisthenics (squats, pushups, sit ups, etc.), boot camp, cross fit, etc. or any activity that fatigues your muscles after 12 reps or more.
- Recommended to perform at least twice a week on major muscle groups
3) Flexibility – increases mobility, decreases injuries, and elongates the muscles. Flexibility exercises improve posture and relieve tension on muscles and joints. Some yoga poses even massage internal organs for improved blood flow and digestion to nourish your body and cells.
- Examples include: Yoga, Ballet, Pilates, or any form stretching.
- Recommended to perform on warm muscles especially before and after endurance and strength training
4) Balance – stabilizes core and enhances body control which prevents falls. Practicing balance intensifies your spatial awareness and quickens reflex times.
- Examples include: Tai Chi, Yoga, One Leg Exercises, Balance Beam, etc.
- Recommended especially for older adults but can be incorporated in any of the above activities
Note: Please consult your healthcare provider and or certified professional before engaging in certain activities to prevent injuries or worsening existing conditions, and to ensure proper form.
1National Nutrition Month. Eat Right. https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month. Accessed March 15, 2022.
2Singh V, Raghav P, Singh G, et al. Lifestyle and behavioral changes during nationwide lockdown in India-A cross-sectional analysis. J Family Med Prim Care, 2021.
3Years of Potential Life Lost Because of Cardiovascular Disease in Asian‐American Subgroups, 2003–2012-Journal of the American Heart Association, 2019.
4Global recommendations on physical activity for health. https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/physical-activity-recommendations-18-64years.pdf. Accessed March 17, 2022.
Happy Nourishing Simple Living
Lavanya Kethamukkala, RDN, LDN, CLT