MOVEMENT & STATE: Invoking the exercise regime

It is emphatically proven that exercise improves brain performance due to increased blood flow, alter moods positively by increasing the serotonin levels, improves sleep, improves heart rate and efficiency, causes changes in gene expression, better lung expansion for more oxygen intake, helps sustain bone mass and keeps diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol in check amongst innumerable other benefits. Diet and exercise (energy expenditure) are the two ostensible means amongst others to attain great health yet why are majority of the people non-indulgent when it comes to exercise.

Movement improves overall state. An exercise regime of 40 minutes a day with spirited intensity is the game preserve of the healthy yet with tumultuous resistance our body combats the urge to begin movement why? Yes it is sheer effort as against luxuriating in inactivity but the consequences of lack of movement are colossal. The simple reason people don’t do it is because of the spread. Our life is spread over 90 years and the detrimental effects of not exercising is not immediate, it manifests over many years perhaps decades hence people are not adequately alarmed to begin an exercise regime at least not till one’s medical charts show some distressing units that digress from prescribed levels. Warm weather, running groups, clean surroundings, no high density traffic, no air pollution, safe neighbourhood devoid of crime and violence, parks, gyms, all of these factors promote a culture of exercise and it is incumbent upon government to facilitate the cause however the essence is that regardless of extraneous situations, exercising or some form of physical activity is not a preferential disposition or a choice to make, it is absolutely mandatory for overall well being. As per data from The World Health Organization, 3.2 million people die each year due to lack of physical activity.

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Borrowing a scientistic analogy, Newton’s first law of motion in its simplistic interpretation implies, “An object will remain at rest or in uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force.” A sizeable lot seem to have adopted the first part of this law of inertia and keeping themselves in a supreme state of rest. Human body to initiate movement could certainly benefit from an external force as in a trainer, coach, companion, infrastructure, inspiration etc. but unlike an object that is solely dependent on the external force,   the human body in stark contrast is capable of drawing from internal drive too and can begin exercise and the very first step towards this is to heighten awareness about the importance of movement and state preservation or for the other lot who only crank into action after accosting pain (from the pleasure-pain concept), make them aware of the dire consequences of not doing it. Laws of inertia imply that body has a resistance to change its state of rest or uniform motion. If we were to use the power in the 2nd part of Newton’s law i.e. body also continues its state of motion unless prevented externally, can’t we put a schedule of exercise in place, which is unstoppable. Once the brain and body enjoy the merits of movement and its apparent benefits, it is a habit in motion albeit a good one that shouldn’t be interrupted. Inactivity could be as pernicious as smoking and can cause accumulation of plaque in the heart as one ages, coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, depression, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

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BASIC METABOLIC RATE (BMR) :

Metabolic rate is the rate at which body converts food to energy. The higher the metabolic rate the more energy our cells will consume. When we are young our metabolic rate is high and we used to do more energetic tasks including active sports but with age, metabolism slows down. BMR (Basal metabolic rate) is the key to know how many calories to consume in a day to keep the body functioning at rest such as breathing, sleeping, keeping the heart beating, regulating internal temperature, digestion basically the bare requisites to sustain life. Even if we don’t do anything in the day and stay in bed whole day, BMR indicates the basic calories to sustain internal metabolism. Of the total energy expended by the body about 70% is expended on basal life process within the organs of the body, about 20 % is expended on physical activity and about 10 % expended on thermogenesis or digestion of food. Of the 70 % energy expended the liver expends 27 %, brain 19 %, skeletal muscle 18%, kidneys 10 % and other organs 19 %. The liver is the silent and hardest working organ of the body.

The Harris- Benedict equation (revised) states :

  • For men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)
  • For Women BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)

The above equation has reasonable accuracy but a person who is extremely muscular (muscle tissues burns more calories than fat tissues) or very obese may need a variation in the formula. For example say John’s weight is 70 kgs., height is 180 cms. and his age is 40 yrs. As per above calculation his BMR is 1663 i.e. for him to sustain his basic metabolism at rest he needs 1663 kilocalories (or calories). BMR is calculated in post absorptive stage i.e. when digestive system is inactive as during this time the energy is used up only for vital organs (heart, lungs, kidneys, the nervous system, intestines, liver, lungs, sex organs, muscles, and skin).

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The daily kilocalorie needs for people are as follows :

  • Little or no exercise : BMR x 1.2
  • Light exercise ( 3-5 days per week) : BMR x 1.375
  • Moderate exercise (3–5 days per week) : BMR x 1.55
  • Heavy exercise (6–7 days per week) : BMR x 1.725
  • Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts): BMR x 1.9

If John includes moderate exercise, goes to work etc., then his daily kilocalorie need works out as 1663 (his BMR) x 1.55 (moderate exercise) = 2577 kilocalories. An average active man needs about 2500 kilo calories (often denoted as calories) and an active woman about 2000 Kilocalories a day. Now 2577 calories is the minimum needed to sustain John’s weight at 70 kgs. with his level of moderate exercise. If he desires to lose weight and make it 65 kgs., either he has to reduce his calorific intake below 2577 or increase his exercise level and keep his calorific intake at 2577. As we get older we tend to lose muscle and gain fat hence BMR decreases with age. If due to some reason John stops exercise, his daily calorie intake need reduces to 1995 i.e. 1663 (his BMR) x 1.22 ( little or no exercise) and to reduce weight if he skips meals to cut down calories less than 1995 (which is the least calories needed to survive), the body goes into starvation mode resulting in a slow metabolism due to the assumption that there is scarcity of food and this decreases BMR by 30 %. When low BMR happens body starts breaking down muscle mass to produce energy from protein for sustenance. John starts losing those impressive muscles that he had acquired with arduous effort. Increasing BMR therefore is very important to retain muscle mass for energy and vital tasks and this can happen with exercise. Muscle contributes to the fat free mass of an individual hence anaerobic exercise (strength training) increases the BMR.

What if John doesn’t exercise at all? What if he is okay with average muscles and instead meticulously monitors intake calories and keeps it at 1995, well in this case he just manages to keep his weight in check but not other improvement parameters like better heart rate, better oxygen supply to the brain, state preservation, controlled blood pressure etc. which will result in John being less energetic during the day and if he sustains this routine of lack of exercise, could have other consequences. Apart form the above benefits, regular exercise helps in normalizing glucose and insulin and leptin levels by optimizing insulin/leptin receptor sensitivity, which aids in chronic disease prevention.

CONCLUSION:

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Body definitely wasn’t designed for static conditions. Its optimal functioning is based on an unwritten yet strong stipulation that it will be kept active else it will refuse to co-operate in the long run. Body comes alive with movement and exercise is vital besides it also improves mood by increasing the serotonin levels. Body doesn’t keep what is not wanted, muscles that are not needed are discarded and atrophies. But from that logic why does body not remove fat that is not needed and why does it render such discriminatory attitude to muscles. Why does fat accumulate whilst unused muscles dissipate? Resting muscle cell burns about 8 times more energy per day than a fat cell and one pound of muscle burns roughly fifty calories per day in comparison to one pound of fat that burns about two calories per day. This is why the faster you attempt to lose weight by lowering calories drastically or effect frequent ‘meal skips’, the more muscle you will lose unless you are concurrently doing strength training. The overall calorie intake per day has to be regulated. A state of semi-starvation for days or abstinence from sweets, desserts etc. may give a reassurance to the mind that you have managed fewer calories but without a proper combination of exercise and diet our objective to lose weight could be laden with surprise.

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Hastening to an exercise program is not the panacea for losing weight, an informed nutrition and training approach with guidance is important. Running for 5 miles on the treadmill is terrific but it won’t get that loathsome fat from the waist dispensed with hence staring at the weighing machine with discontent after 6 months of intense activity is futile. People make innumerable botched attempts at the gym and wonder why nothing seems to be happening. Weight loss is an outcome of a comprehensive blend of moderate to high intensity exercise and calorie management. A reformulation with aerobic + anaerobic exercise is also important. Exercise must be split into cardiovascular and strength training which is endurance exercise and resistance training respectively. Cardiovascular is aerobic exercise which virtually means ‘living in air’ i.e. usage of oxygen to meet energy demands. This is light to moderate intensity exercise and involves running, jogging, swimming, cycling and walking. Anaerobic is intense exercise to develop strength, speed and power in athletes (100 & 200 meter athletes are muscular compared to long distance endurance runners) as well as build body muscle mass. Why strength or resistance training, well muscle drives our resting metabolic rate, so having a higher muscle mass helps burn more fat, even while we are at rest. The importance of movement in preserving our well being is undisputed but it has to be marinated in consistency and layered with the right nutrition knowledge.

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