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Your most common health questions answered

April 21, 2014 13:39 IST

Your most common health questions answered

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S Saraswathi

How much exercise does an individual need to lose weight and keep it off?

What are the habits that increase health risks in women?

What are the dangers of casual sex?

What are the myths about exercising while being pregnant?

How can you prevent suffering from common ailments?

How can you stay fit at your desk in office?

Noted obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Sheela Nambiar has also trained as a fitness and lifestyle consultant from National Association of Fitness, USA. Between the work at her clinic in Ooty and a fitness studio in Chennai, Dr Nambiar has also found time to write a book on issues relating to women's fitness, Get Size Wise.

Here she talks about the necessity to strike a better work-life balance and offers simple tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

On losing weight

I believe self-esteem is very critical for success especially when one wants to achieve something even if it is weight loss or better health.

It is especially important if one wants to 'stay with a programme' so to speak. One has to do it for oneself eventually.

'I want to lose weight for my husband or children' never really works in the long term. This is where the counselling becomes very important.

Importance of exercise

There are several benefits of exercise some of which are -mood elevation, better brain function, improved self-esteem, weight loss, improved cardiovascular functionality, improved strength and flexibility, stronger bones and preventing osteoporosis.

Prevention of cancer, diabetes, hypertension and several other non-communicable diseases is also possible through regular exercise.

Health and proper diet

If one goes low enough in calorie intake, 'weight' on the scale can probably be maintained. But fitness, no.

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Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar

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5 habits that increase health risks in women

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Most common health issues Indian women face

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • PCOD
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Aches and pains from muscle disuse
  • Poor strength
  • Lower muscle mass 

5 habits that increase health risks in women

  • Not exercising regularly
  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol
  • Eating far too many carbs, trans fats and sugar
  • Not managing stress well

Healthy living tips to prevent common ailments

  • Move more, exercise regularly and eat clean
  • Have a passion
  • Contribute outside of your family
  • Stay busy
  • Develop gratitude and the habit of happiness 

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
Tags: PCOD

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Common myths and facts about exercising while pregnant

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On couples delaying having a baby

Such is life. Many of them don't have a choice as they are busy with careers. For others it is a conscious choice to delay pregnancy. Today women have many more options. They choose to express their freedom and empowerment by choosing when to have a child.

It is more difficult to conceive after 35 but definitely not impossible.

Going through pregnancy before the age of 35 is always advisable from a medical point of view. Complications are more common with older women in pregnancy.

Common myths and facts about exercising while pregnant

Exercising in pregnancy is absolutely safe and necessary. One needs to be guided however. There are certain precautions to be taken while exercising during pregnancy.

  • Do not exercise under too hot or humid conditions
  • Stay hydrated
  • Do not lie on your back for prolonged periods of time during exercise after the fourth month
  • Avoid high-impact activities and contact sports
  • Stop and see your doctor if you experience spotting or bleeding
  • Do not exercise if there is a threat of abortions or pre-term labour
  • Walking, cycling and swimming are very safe in pregnancy. Strength training exercises for specific muscle groups need to be done regularly to prevent common ailments like back pain, shoulder pain, etc.
  • Stretches to counter the tightness of certain muscles like the back also need to be done regularly.

When should a girl first see a gynaecologist

It is advisable to meet with a gynaecologist once the girl attains menarche or starts her period, so she can be guided and advised regarding what to expect. 

Casual sex and its dangers

  • Think before you leap!
  • Use protection to prevent not only unwanted pregnancy but also sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Be aware of the complications of ‘casual sex’, it may not be so casual after all and emotions come into play especially in young girls unprepared for what to expect. The repercussions of these emotional involvements can be quite complicated leading to lack of focus in studies, irrational behaviour, mood swings, depression and so on.
  • Teenage pregnancy is quite common and has several complications.
  • The ability to be able to communicate with parents, especially the mother, may prove invaluable in these situations. 

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Image: Pregnant women attend a yoga class in Madrid
Photographs: Susana Vera/Reuters
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Advice to working people with a desk job and no time to exercise

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Exercise and weight loss

For someone who is completely sedentary, even 15 minutes a day will start the weight loss process. But their routine will have to evolve as their fitness and weight loss increases.

Actually as far as ‘weight on the scale’ goes, diet is more important than exercise! So then you would ask me, why exercise? For the maintenance of the weight loss, (and of course other things like improvement of fitness and the feel good factor) exercise, particularly, weight training is critical.

Exercise routine for working women

I think 30-60 minutes a day, at least 4 times a week is definitely possible. It's all about time management and prioritisation. It is also about trade-offs. You may need to give up an hour of television, you may need to skip the 'kitty party' or eat less at the office party. If one can use the stairs at all times instead of the lift. If one gets in short workouts several times a day the calorific expenditure is increased.

All exercise routines can be modified to suit individual needs and time availability. Many big corporates these days have gyms in their facility. It's all about finding a way to do what you have to if you really want to.

Advice to working people with a desk job and no time to exercise

  • Everyone has 24 hours in a day whether they are working people or not. At least 20-30 minutes/day has to be spent on fitting in an exercise routine.
  • Here's what I find: people, who are already fit and exercising regularly are the ones who manage to do exercises at their work desk! For overweight people who do not exercise, performing a few exercises at the desk will not really help. It needs more commitment than that.
  • For those who exercise and have perhaps missed their workout that day squats, lunges, triceps dips, push-ups and stretches can be done at their desk.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or lift.
  • Walk several times to the water cooler.
  • Take short breaks from sitting at your desk and walk around or up and down the stairs.
  • Join the gym in the office and get in a workout before leaving work.
  • Most importantly, eat healthy! 

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
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Role of sports/swimming to maintain a healthy lifestyle

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On 10-minute workouts

10 minutes, three times a day, is also an option for someone who is less fit and has less time.

10-minute workouts are also very effective if one is very fit and can put in an intense 10-minute session.

Routine for women suffering from back pain or knee pain

  • Strengthening of the muscles around the knee or back is critical. This is where weight training (the second pillar of fitness) comes into the picture.
  • 'Stretching' to improve the flexibility (the third pillar of fitness) using simple stretches or modalities like yoga also help. Cardio (the first pillar of fitness) can be added on once the muscles are stronger to aid weight loss. Diet of course further aids weight loss.
  • Losing weight will lessen the load on these joints. It's all connected.

Role of sports/swimming to maintain a healthy lifestyle

Playing a sport for recreation is great to maintain weight and feel good. If one plays for several years, however, your body sees it as ‘activity’ and not really ‘exercise’. Adding some higher intensity workouts (like high intensity interval training or HIIT, boot camp etc) along with strength training and stretching is helpful to stay in shape especially as one ages.

Importance of weight training for women

Absolutely crucial. I am a huge proponent of weight training as you might have guessed already! It is especially important for women as they grow older to maintain muscle mass and strength and of course to prevent weight gain. Critical for Indian women.

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Photographs: Jeff Haynes/Reuters
Tags: HIIT

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Tips to manage a good work-life balance

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Maintaining a fitness regime at home without expensive exercise equipments

Yes, all you need is your own body weight (for exercises like push-ups, squats etc), a couple of dumbbells and a mat. More important you need to learn the exercises properly so as to prevent injury if you do them wrong.

Simple tips for good health and fitness

  • First try to cover 10,000 steps every day moving around as much as possible.
  • Even 20-30 minutes/day of exercise is better than nothing
  • Be consistent
  • Don't look for quick fix remedies; they don't work in the long term
  • Stop finding excuses and find ways to fit in exercise!

Tips to manage a good work-life balance

I am no expert in this but I think one may not find this balance on a daily basis. It is more important to look at it from larger time frame. For instance you may need to work hard all week sometimes neglecting home. Try and balance it out over the weekend or over the holidays.

  • Quality time with kids, family and friends is more important than quantity of time spent with them.
  • Find a passion/ hobby to nurture your spirit.
  • Don't take yourself too seriously all the time.
  • See the humour in things. It's all about perspective!

Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
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