Diabetes, heart problems, blood pressure, joint pains, asthma the list goes on and on. These ailments are grouped together under ‘Lifestyle Diseases’ (LSDs) and have become constant companions of the urban middle class, irrespective of age and gender. Sedentary lifestyles and toxic environments are often blamed as the cause of these diseases.
One sees an increasing number of people signing up for gym memberships and going out for walks to address these issues. While these measures are helpful, one rarely comes across individuals who have been able to reduce their medications or reverse LSDs.
A sedentary lifestyle alone is not responsible for these diseases and indulging in some form of physical activity is not enough. If the toxic environment is the cause, an individual’s one-dimensional efforts are not sufficient to correct it. An integrated approach (wellness orbit) – consisting of adequate nutrition, appropriate physical activity, restful sleep and optimal stress management goes a long way to strengthen our internal faculties and therefore either reduce or even reverse these conditions. The picture below best describes it.
Wellness Orbit: It consists of the following:
- Physical Activity
They form an orbit with each one affecting the other and the orbit becomes bigger with each revolution. As the orbit becomes bigger, the stress levels go down and others progress towards optimum levels. So the Wellness Orbit can not only reduce or reverse the existing LSDs, but also works as vaccination against future attacks.
Nutrition: Popular belief amongst the literate is that they think they know all that is required about food and nutrition and have very limited understanding about medicines. The reality is the opposite. “Statins reduce LDL” is common knowledge. But how many people know what and how to eat to increase HDL? The fact is that that there is no medicine to increase HDL and only nutrition can improve HDL. This lack of food and nutrition knowledge is mostly responsible for the LSDs. One of the main causes of LSDs in India is that a large proportion of the nutrition available comprises of quick digesting carbohydrates or irregular meals i.e. either a prolonged interval between meals or intermittent snacking, which includes tea/coffee. Additionally, rich food has become the main source of celebrations, enjoyment, and comfort in most societies. All these cause LSDs. Inadequate nutrition also hinders/hampers the other dimensions of wellness – physical activity, intermittent stress and disturbed sleep. Balanced and adequate nutrition is a foundation for the other aspects of the Wellness Orbit. Hence, the first priority should always be food.
Physical Activity: Inadequate and imbalanced nutrition causes fatigue and restricted movement. More often than not, people are looking for reasons to not indulge in physical activity. People look for opportunities to use elevators, escalators and vehicles for short distances. Physical activity largely comprises of two types: (a) Formal exercise (b) Lifestyle movements. Both are essential for good health.
Formal exercise: This is also called leisure time exercise. Gym, walking, running, zumba etc. for an hour in the morning comprises formal exercise. “No pain; no gain” holds good for this activity. To get maximum benefit out of this activity, intensity is more important than endurance for people who largely lead sedentary life. For example, if walking is the activity, it should be done with the aid of a stopwatch. One should cover at least three kilometers in thirty minutes. This allows the heart to pump blood to the non exercising muscles which should be the main purpose of this type of exercise.
Lifestyle movements: If burning of fat is the goal, indulge in lifestyle movements. Lifestyle movement comprises of walking from one place to another and movement that is used to complete daily chores. All lifestyle movements burn 80% fat and 20% carbohydrates, as opposed to 80% carbohydrates and 20% fat in the formal exercise. Taking stairs instead of Lift, walking short distances, a stroll after lunch and dinner are some of the methods by which fat burning can be increased.
Very often, people who indulge in physical activity believe that they can indulge in unlimited eating so as to justify the calories burnt. On most occasions, calories burnt during physical activity are less than those contained in a samosa. Appropriate nutrition contributes to 80% of weight loss/good health and physical activity contributes to 20% of the same. If one is looking to build muscle, one needs better quality of food and nutrition than what is eaten normally.
Intermittent Stress: Contrary to popular belief that stress is bad,some amount of stress is important for survival.Stress hormone activation is needed for some simple and common daily habits like waking up from the bed in the morning. So occasional stress (deadline stress) is not bad, it is in fact essential for survival and good for us. But intermittent stress is harmful. To understand the reason for it, let us understand the stress mechanism. Stress can broadly be classified into deadline stress and intermittent stress. A person can be stressed during major occasions (needed for survival). Examples of deadline stress are meeting deadline, playing a match to win, being chased by a tiger etc. Examples of intermittent stress are anger at a traffic jam, anger at a colleague, carbohydrate shocks, stress while doing activities that one does not like. When a person is stressed, either during meeting a deadline or anger due to traffic jam, the same stress mechanism comes into play – the nervous system is activated, hormones are pumped into blood and the muscles are charged with energy. Deadlines last for a limited period during which muscles are used and energy is consumed, after which life becomes normal. But incase of a traffic jam or other forms of intermittent stress, the body plans for action through the hormones and nervous system activation, however there is no related action thereafter. The consequence is that muscles are loaded with energy and most importantly this intermittent stress cycle is repetitive, causing long-term damage to the body. The excessive amounts of energy cause the body to pump more than required insulin into the blood causing “insulin resistance” and therefore the LSDs. Additionally, other organs cannot use energy stored in the muscle. It has to be used by moving the muscles. An eco-friendly method to release the energy stored in the muscle is to indulge in physical activity.
A feel good hormone called Serotonin is produced during physical activity, which reduces stress. Stress generally drives us to comfort foods which are usually calorie dense and nutrient deficient. So avoid eating during stress periods. A deep breathing exercise or walk in the open air would help you get over stress.
Sleep: Sleep is when our body repairs itself. Good nutrition and physical activity contributes significantly to a restful sleep. Seven hours of nighttime sleep is ideal. If you have opportunity to get seven hours of sleep, but you are not able to sleep, the other 3 aspects of Wellness Orbit (nutrition, physical activity and intermittent stress) could be a very strong reason for it. If you are not getting the required nighttime sleep for whatever reason, the following could be the consequences:
- Lack of nighttime sleep can lead to hypothyroidism.
- Less sleep causes fatigue which leads to individuals having more tea/coffees or other forms of calorie consumption, hence more weight.
- Lack of sleep also increase blood sugar levels and increases BP.
The consequences of some or all the above going wrong together or in parts leads to Insulin Resistance state. In this state, a person tends to prefer refined / quick digesting carbohydratesdevoid of adequate protein and steeped in unhealthy fats making a person put on weight. In a fat person, the brain cannot hear the signals sent by the fat cells, so it assumes that body is starving. A natural reaction of a starving person is to seek food and to avoid work.
Fat = More food + less work. and not the other way.
Refined carbs. also create Insulin spikes, which make the liver and fat cells Insulin Resistant. The liver continues to pump glucose into blood even when blood is already flooded with glucose received from the food. This is one of the main reasons for high fasting sugars in some people even 8 to 10 hours after the meal.
To add to the problems, fat cells instead of taking the fat from the blood, pump in fat increasing the Triglycerides (TGs). This is the reason for high TGs among Indians even though they eat less fat. If one wants to reduce TGs, one has to reduce Calories and Refined Carbs.
Our Service Offerings:
- We help you identify those areas of the wellness orbit that you can improve given your current lifestyle
- We help you transition into a healthy active lifestyle seamlessly by helping you make appropriate lifestyle changes
- We can work on your sleep and stress related conditions and disorders and recommend a fitness regime that is suited for your lifestyle and current fitness levels through our panel of fitness experts