Exercise in health and disease

Exercise in Health and Disease
A world famous physical educationist, Eugene Sandow, has very aptly said, " Life is movement,
stagnation is death. " Physical exercise is essential for the maintenance of normal condition of
life. Lack of natural exercise is one of the chief causes of weakness and ill-health.
In recent years, the need for exercise has been recognised even in sickness. Physio and
occupational therapy are now standard procedures in medicine to restore the use of muscles
and nerves that have been injured by disease or by accident. Patients with organic ailments are
now advised to stay in bed for the minimum period considered necessary.
Exercise and Activity
For corrective living, it is essential to differentiate between exercise and activity. While both are
important as they are involved in vital physical movement, they vary in degree and benefits.
Both employ the body in voluntary movement. Activity uses the body to a limited degree and
generally to achieve a specific purpose. Exercise employs the body over the widest possible
range of movement for the particular purpose of maintaining or acquiring muscle tone and
control with maximum joint flexibility.
Activity requires less physical effort and often less conscious effort once the routine has been
established. Exercise demands considerable physical effort and is more beneficial as mental
concentration is simultaneously employed.
Systematic physical exercise has many benefits. The more important benefits are mentioned
below :
Regular exercise taken properly can achieve the increased use of food by the body,
which contributes to health and fitness. The basal metabolic rate and habitual body
temperature will slowly rise during several weeks of physical exercise, if the programme is
not too hard. The healthy person usually has abundant body heat and a warm radiant
Regular progressive physical exercise can bring about the balance of automatic, or
involuntary , nervous system. The tone of the vagus nerve, one of the nerves that control
sensation and motion, is strengthened. This accounts for stronger pulse waves, higher
metabolism and better circulation.
Exercise can prevent or reduce gravitational ptosis or sag, as it is commonly called.
Ptosis results from uneven flow of blood in the feet, legs and lower abdomen.
Improved capillary action in the working of muscular and brain tissue results from
exercise carried to the point of real endurance. This permits greater blood flow and gives
the muscles, including the heart, more resistance to fatigue.
Massage, heat and moderate exercise are relatively ineffective in producing additional
capillary action as compared with vigorous exercise.
The full use of the lungs in vigorous exercise can reduce or prevent lung congestion due
to lymph accumulation.
Gas and intra-intestinal accumulations can be reduced by exercise that acts to knead and
squeeze or vibrate the intraintestinal mass.
Better respiratory reserve is developed by persistent exercise. This ensures better breath
holding, especially after a standard exercise. With greater respiratory reserves, exercise
become easier.
viii. Improvement in tone and function of veins can be accomplished by repetitiously

squeezing and draining the blood out of them and then allowing them to fill.
ix. Sweating in exercise aids kidneys by helping to eliminate the waste matter from the body.
Consistent exercise leads to improvement in quality of blood. Studies have shown
improved haemoglobin levels, relatively greater alkalinity, improved total protein content
and a grater red cell count.

Systemic exercise promotes physical strength and mental vigour and strengthens will power and
self control leading to harmonious development of the whole system.
Exercise promotes longevity
Medical researchers at Harvard and Standford Universities who studied the habits and health of
17,000 middle-aged and older men, reported the first scientific evidence that even modest
exercise helps prolong life. Dr. Ralph S. Paffenberger, the visiting professor of epidemology at
the Harvard School of Pubic Health, who is the principal author of the report said, " We have
found a direct relationship between the level of physical activity and the length of life in the
college men we have studied. " He added," This is the first good evidence that people who are
active and fit have a longer life span than those who are not. "
A strong connection between a hard and a healthy hard has also been convincingly
demonstrated in the same study. The study showed that the less active persons ran a three
times higher risk of suffering a fatal heart attack than did those who worked the hardest. Review
of fatal heart attacks revealed that the less active men were also three times more likely to die
unexpectedly and rapidly within an hour after the attack.
A parallel research report from doctors in Dulles also concluded, after a study of the lives and
habits of 6,000 men and women, that the physically fit were less likely to develop hypertension.
Dr. Steven N. Blair who headed the research group said, " We followed the physical health and
habits of these people for an average of four-and-a-half years and the data showed that the
lackof physical fitness leads to hypertension. "
Exercise increases calorie output. The body fat can be reduced by regular exercise. It is
therefore, useful for weight reduction in conjunction with restricted food intake. According to a
study by Dr. Peter Wood of Stanford University Medical School, author of ‘ California Diet and
Exercise Programme ‘, very active people eat about 600 more calories daily than their sedentary
counterparts but weight about 20 per cent less. Upto 15 hours after vigorous exercise, the body
continues to burn calories at a higher rate than it would have without exercise. Moderate
physical exercise has been found to be accompanied by less obesity and lower cholesterol
Regular exercise plays an important role in the fight against stress. It provides recreation and
mental relaxation besides keeping the body physically and mentally fit. It is nature’s best
Chronic fatigue caused by poor circulation can be remedied by undertaking some exercise on a
daily basis. It helps relieve tension and induces sleep. Moderate physical exercise at the end of
a try day can bring a degree of freshness and renewed energy.
Exercise also plays an important role in the treatment of depression. According to Dr. Robert
Brown, a clinical associate professor at the University of Virgina School of Medicine, " Exercise
produces chemical and psychological changes that improves your mental health. It changes the
levels of hormones in blood and may elevate your beta-endorphins (mood-affecting brain
chemicals). Exercise also gives a feeling of accomplishment and thereby reduces the sense of
helplessness. "
Methods of Exercise
Several systems of exercise have been developed over the years, the most popular among them
being the Swedish system and yoga asanas, the later having been practised from ancient times
in India. Whichever system you choose to adopt, the exercises should be performed
systematically, regularly and under proper guidance.
To be really useful, exercise should be taken in such a manner as to bring into action all the
muscles of the body in a natural way. Walking is one such exercise. It is, however, so gentle in
character that one must walk several kilometers in a brisk manner to constitute a fair amount of
exercise. Other forms of good exercise are swimming, cycling, horse-riding, tennis, etc.
Vigirous exercise of any kind should not be taken for an hour and a half after eating, nor
immediately before meals. Weak patients and those suffering from serious diseases like cancer,
heart trouble, tuberculosis and asthama should not undertake vigious exercise except under the
supervision of a competent physician. If exercising makes you tired, stop immediately . The
purpose of exercise should be to make you feel refreshed and relaxed and not tired.
The most important rule about the fitness plan is to start with very light exercise and to increase
the effort in gradual and easy stages. The sense of well-being will begin almost immediately.
One can start off with a brisk walk for 15 to 20 minutes. A comfortable sense of tiredness should
be the aim. It is valueless and possibly harmful to become exhausted or seriously short of
breath. Perhaps, one should aim at activities which need about two-thirds of one’s maximum
ability. One way to assess is to count your own pulse rate.
Counting of pulse is quite easy. Feel the pulse on your left wrist with the middle three fingers of
your right hand. Press just firmly enough to feel the beat easily. Now count the number of beats
in 15 seconds, with the help of a watch with clear second hand and calculate your rate by
multiplying by four. At rest heart beats 70 to 80 times a minute. This rate increases during
exercise. Really vigorous can produce rates as high as 200 beats per minute or more.
Reasonable aim is to exercise at about two-thirds of maximum capacity. It follows that heart rate
should be about 130 per minute during and just after exercise. Always avoid over-exertion and
never allow your pulse go above 190 per minute minus your age.

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