Is ‘healthy’ exercise really ‘healthy’?

Monday, 20 December 2010 From Issue Vol. XVIII No. 51 By  Dr. Iain Corness

Most people will admit they are not really fit, but there seems to be a train of thought out there, that you have to attend a gymnasium to get ‘fit’.  I too have attended a gymnasium - twice!  Once was for three months, after I promised the gymnasium instructor that I would try it for the proscribed period.  I also have to admit that pedaling an exercise bicycle to nowhere I found a giant bore.  I was glad when the three months were up.  And honestly I did not feel any “fitter” either.

Probably the commonest advice a doctor gives out at the end of the year is to lose weight and get some exercise.  Was that part of the advice after your annual physical check-up?  Very likely.

Unfortunately, there seems to be very little real understanding of what exercise should consist of, how often, what type, how long and what about sex?  However, getting a little serious, exercise will be good for you, provided that you pick a form of exercise that is not harmful for you!

Now I know that looks as if I have put my money on both horses in the race, but take that sentence at its face value.  Enough research has been done to show that regular exercise is beneficial for everybody, in both the physical and psychological aspects; but, and it is a big ‘but’, all forms of exercise have relative bodily risks, and this has to be taken into account before you buy a pair of expensive jogging shoes and tackle a 10 km trot in the middle of the day.  True stories - a medical colleague in Australia took up playing squash when he turned 50 and dropped dead on the court of a heart attack, and another acquaintance of mine turned 40, decided he wasn’t fit, bought a bicycle to ride to work each day and was run over by a bus.  And that is something which is always on the cards in Thailand.

I once read an article that advised non-slippery shoes for the novice exerciser and suggested you choose appropriate exercise according to your ability.  Never exceed your limit.  Remember that it is not the harder the better.  If you have acute medical problems (such as fever, or pain), stop exercising.  If you have chronic medical conditions (such as hypertension, diabetes, ischemic heart disease and arthritis), seek advice from your doctor or physiotherapist beforehand.  All of these I agree with.  If you are happy to take your body to your medical advisor when it is sick, take it back to your doctor for advice on how to tone it up as well.

The form of exercise should be one that you enjoy, and it may be gymnasium work, or jogging, or walking, or swimming or something else reasonably vigorous.  It should be such that you raise a sweat, but not to the point of dehydration!  Do not wait until you are thirsty.  Take appropriate breaks.  Do not over-exert yourself.  Forget about “powering through the pain barrier”.  Leave that for drug-fuelled cyclists in France.

As well as the form of exercise, there is the frequency.  At least three times per week, 20-30 minutes (or more) is necessary each time, to derive the maximum benefit.  But always remember, if there is dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting, nausea or severe pain during exercise, stop exercising immediately and seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Now I did mention horizontal folk dancing and some of you have been impatiently reading, while nervously fiddling with your expensive packet of Viagras, Kanagras, Cialis and other lead-in-your-pencil medications (I draw the line at tiger willy).  OK, what about sex?  The advisability of this form of exercise when you have some chronic complaint (such as hypertension, diabetes, ischemic heart disease etc), should be part of the advice you get from your doctor beforehand.  The danger of over the counter willy stiffeners is that you don’t get advice with them.

A fitter body means better sex.  OK?

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