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Don’t just lose weight, get fitter

Don’t just lose weight, get fitter
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First Published: Mon, Nov 29 2010. 09 16 PM IST

Fa(c)t file: Being overweight does not necessarily mean being unfit.
Fa(c)t file: Being overweight does not necessarily mean being unfit.
Updated: Mon, Nov 29 2010. 09 16 PM IST
It’s not how you “look”, but how you “feel” that really matters. I know that I will not make a lot of friends for the above statement, as there are more than a few industries whose business model is based on getting your weight down, either by hook or crook, whether you need to or not. Vanity helps run a lot of industries, and they do very well.
Fa(c)t file: Being overweight does not necessarily mean being unfit.
On the one hand, I agree that obesity needs to be recognized as a treatable disease (I help my patients fight it), but on the other, I disagree with the statement that it is the No. 1 public enemy. There is a far bigger one out there—physical inactivity. The usual advice is that “you need to exercise to lose weight”. That’s half-baked truth, probably even a wrong message. Regular physical activity is an important component of weight management, but it’s more important for the patients’ overall health, whether or not they lose weight. It’s a myth that “obesity” always equals “unfit”. As a matter of fact, overweight people who are moderately/highly physically active are fitter than the normal-weight people who are physically very inactive.
Surprised?
Professor Steven N. Blair (British Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2009), department of exercise science and epidemiology/biostatistics, the University of South Carolina, and several other clinical researchers have good quality evidence from large cohort studies confirming that physical inactivity rather than obesity or being overweight is the causal factor for cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health illness, reduced quality of life, dyslipidemias, hypertension, arrhythmia, increased inflammatory markers, myocardial infarction, dementia, stroke, cancer, fatigue, osteoporosis, fractures, falls, and ultimately early death.
A study published in the latest edition of The Lancet, a general medical journal, done by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), suggests that India is not doing too bad as far as obesity is concerned, compared with Brazil, China, Mexico, Russia and South Africa. India was found to have the lowest percentage of adult women and men who are overweight—14% and 18%, respectively. Yet, given our population, that will be a scary number. And the bad news doesn’t stop there. As I have mentioned earlier, even adults with normal weight aren’t necessarily fit enough.
There is a lot of talk about India’s large young population taking care of the world’s ageing workforce. Robert E. Sallis, former president of American College of Sports Medicine, stated in the January 2009 edition of British Journal of Sports Medicine that “we are looking at a generation of children who are much less fit than their parents and with potential to be the first generation not to live longer than their parents.”
I agree with Dr Sallis. I have observed the same happening in London, Bangalore and Delhi, where I have dealt with a lot of musculo-skeletal conditions, including back, neck and other ergonomic-related conditions. We are in midst of a global epidemic, but for a change, this is one problem that can be treated and prevented by our own actions.
Shouldn’t we then make “physical activity” a national healthcare policy if we really want to be global leaders in the next 10 years? Shouldn’t quality go hand in hand with quantity?
And it doesn’t take much. Various guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least five days a week or its equivalent will get the job done. This might not be enough, but we need to start with baby steps.
So, please don’t give me an any more excuses on why you cannot exercise. Get moving, now!
Rajat Chauhan is a practitioner of sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and CEO of Back 2 Fitness.
Write to Rajat at treadmill@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Nov 29 2010. 09 16 PM IST
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