1. MY BMI IS 24 AND I AM SLIM. DO I REALLY NEED TO EXERCISE REGULARLY?
Yes, your BMI is within normal limits and many people relate exercise with obesity. But exercise is not limited to those who are obese or overweight only. It is for all age groups, with or without diseases, young and old, and male or female.
Physical Activity for Health by the World Health Organisation does not limit the recommendation to a certain group of people. The same is true for the Garis Panduan Aktiviti Fizikal Malaysia by the Ministry of Health — it doesn't limit exercise to obese and overweight people only. This is because its benefits go beyond weight control such as maintaining a healthy body by preventing and reducing the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
Exercise is also known to help control hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol. It will not make you thinner but for a lean person, physical activity will prevent weight gain.
Don't wait until you are overweight or obese to start exercising. Start exercising now. Make it part of your healthy lifestyle. Start with a small amount at a lower intensity. You may start with a minimum of 10 minutes per session per day, three times a week.
Gradually increase the time to a minimum of 150 minutes a week over months. If you do high intensity exercise such as jogging, a minimum of 75 minutes per week is the recommendation, the more the better. The more exercise is done, the more health benefits you will get.
2. HOW DO I KNOW I'M BETTER WITH REGULAR EXERCISE?
The main aim of exercise is to have good body composition, increased cardiovascular fitness, good personal health risk factor indicators and improved overall wellbeing. The simplest way is to measure body mass index.
BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilogrammes by your height in metres. The normal BMI is between 20-25kg/m2. You can also measure waist circumference, which is a measure of central fat in your body.
For Asians, the normal waist circumference is 90cm for men and 80cm for women. Do this measurement every week to look for any changes in your body composition.
Cardiorespiratory fitness is one of the important measures of exercise.
One should aim to increase CRF with regular exercise. Moderate to high intensity exercise such as brisk walking and jogging will increase CRF. Increased CRF is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Increased CRF is usually seen in your performance of exercise such as speed of running and a shorter time taken to complete a given distance.
(You can learn how to measure CRF, and how to increase CRF, in the NST/Heal issue of Nov 24, 2017 in the article titled Exercise: How to measure cardiorespiratory fitness).
You can also test your muscle strength to see any improvement. Health improvement is seen by measuring personal health risk indicators. The personal health risk indicator includes blood pressure, blood sugar level, cholesterol level and other measurements. Exercise will have a direct effect on these three. Consult your doctor yearly for a health screening to know your health status.
Overall, if you exercise regularly, you will feel more energetic, and you will be able to reduce stress, improve cognitive function and sleep quality, as well as your body image. Your relationship with friends will also improve, especially if they exercise with you.
3. I WAS OBESE. AFTER MUCH EFFORT, I MANAGED TO COME DOWN TO MY DESIRED WEIGHT. HOW DO I MAINTAIN IT?
Reducing weight for an obese person is challenging. But to maintain reduced weight is another big challenge. Many experts suggest that a minimum of 10 per cent of weight reduction from the original weight is enough to give health benefits.
The more weight you lose, the more health benefits you gain. If the person is able to maintain 10 per cent of reduced weight for one year, this is another success. Studies show that there are only about 20 per cent of successful weight losers. The rest gain their old weight back.
Based on a study, here are some characteristics of people who are successful weight losers:
1. Engaging in a regular high level of exercise for about one hour a day.
2. Eating a low-calorie diet.
3. Eating a low-fat diet.
4. Eating breakfast regularly.
5. Self-monitoring weight regularly.
6. Maintaining a consistent eating pattern throughout weekdays and weekends.
Maintaining weight loss is easier if the person is able to stay at the reduced weight for two to five years.
HEAL WITH EXERCISE
AN AVID SPORTSMAN WHO BELIEVES IN THE HEALING POWERS OF EXERCISE, ASSOC PROF DR AHMAD TAUFIK JAMIL IS UNIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MARA’S PUBLIC HEALTH CONSULTANT AND EXERCISE PHYSICIAN. REACH HIM AT ATJAMIL@GMAIL.COM