Fit doesn’t always mean healthy

Dr Mohit Garg states the difference between internal and external fitness

Fitness is a buzzword nowadays, and we live in an age where everyone wants to be fit. A lot of Indians are hitting the gym with an aim of gaining well-toned muscles and a lean six-pack, apart from staying fit and maintaining a healthy weight. With information freely available on the internet, people are also adopting various types of diets. To act as a catalyst, various fitness apps on your phone, fitness bands, health start-ups and other technologies have been driving the market.

However, just because someone looks fit on the outside, does it mean that the person is healthy on the inside, too? Fitness and health, though closely associated and often used synonymously, should not be confused to be the same. Even if you are fit, you may not be healthy.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as a state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not only merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

A slim and muscular body signifies that a person is physically fit. However, if the person is eating lots of unhealthy food and burning calories with a disciplined exercise regime to maintain their physique, or being a chain smoker or consuming high levels of alcohol, is not an indicator of good health.

Too much exercise is also not good for the body as it may lead to injuries, exhaustion, depression and anxiety, apart from possible cardiac arrhythmias or sudden cardiac arrest.

So how often should one workout? Studies have shown that 30 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity each day, totaling a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week with one day’s break, or a minimum of 75 minutes of intense exercise each week is ideal. Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking or swimming. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes activities such as running and aerobic dancing. Strength training can include use of weight machines, your own body weight, or activities such as rock climbing or trekking.

Even in patients with pre-existing heart diseases, regular exercise is extremely important. Apart from making heart muscles stronger, it may also help patients become more active without chest pain or other symptoms. Exercise helps lower down the blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, and in reducing weight, thereby, controlling most major risk factors associated with heart diseases.

Along with regular physical exercises, nutrition plays an extremely important role in having a healthy heart. Healthy food choices can reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke, as well as food related risk actors like obesity, high blood pressure and uncontrolled diabetes.

If one is planning a healthy diet, one must have fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds which are low in saturated fat and sodium. Also, cutting back on unhealthy food is one of the essential things one will need to do as they are filled with many kinds of preservatives, added sugars and are high in salt content.

A regular exercise routine along with a healthy diet can substantially reduce the risk of developing heart diseases.

(The author is the consultant and head of Accident & Emergency department at Global Hospital, Mumbai.)

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