Harm reduction through physical activity can ward off diseases

“Indians lack adequate exercise and need to get a little more active”

New Delhi, February 15, 2019:

A published in The Lancet found that 4 out of 10 Indians were not sufficiently active. Some studies have even said that 52% of Indians are physically inactive. Another study has indicated that sedentary lifestyle is worse than smoking, diabetes and heart disease. While it is common knowledge that physical inactivity is a leading cause of disease and disability, the study emphasizes the extent to which it can impact health.

Any activity is better than none. It is recommended that people get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, but some researchers argue that this recommendation may set the bar too high for some people. They indicate that guidelines should instead focus on getting people to be just a little bit more active. This was discussed at the first-ever harm reduction conference held on 30th January 2019 at the India Habitat Centre.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Lack of exercise affects the human body right up to the cellular level. Modern and advanced technology has certainly made life easy and convenient for us – online shopping, online payments, accessing information, etc., all of which can be done from the comfort of our homes. But, has technology really made our life better? What it has also done is change our lifestyle pattern at the cost of health; we are less physically active now – sitting at a desk for a long time working on the computer, using social media on smartphones, watching TV or sitting in a meeting, all these activities promote sedentary behavior.”

‘Exercise’ is not synonymous with ‘physical activity’. The former is planned, structured and repetitive while any other physical activity that is done during leisure time, for transport to get to and from places, or as part of a person’s work, also has a health benefit (WHO Fact Sheet, February 2017).

Adding further, Padma Shri awardee, Dr K K Sethi, said, “Walking is the best form of exercise, which requires no investment, no special training. Walking in natural environments such as parks also reduces mental stress and fatigue and improve mood via the release of the ‘feel good’ endorphins. This proximity to nature also helps in the inward spiritual journey and shifts one from the sympathetic to parasympathetic mode manifested by lowering of blood pressure and pulse rate.”

Some recommendations

  • Take the stairs as often as possible.
  • Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Have “walk-meetings” instead of “sit-in” meetings.
  • Walk to the nearby shops instead of driving.
  • Stand up and walk while talking on the phone.
  • Walk down to speak to your colleague instead of using the intercom/phone.
  • Walk around your building for a break during the work day or during lunch.
  • Buy a pedometer.
  • Walk 80 minutes each day; brisk walk 80 minutes a week with a speed of 80 steps per minute.

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