About Dr Sheela Nambiar

Obstetrician Gynaecologist, Fitness & Lifestyle Consultant Author - 'Get Size Wise' & 'Gain To Lose' Website - drsheelanambiar.com Contact - 044 43090897; 0423 2442145; 8903912160

Exercising Is about More than Just Weight Loss…

I come from a family of big noses and big bellies! Since the belly is the only thing within my control, I’ve always been vigilant about it. Luckily, being athletic in school helped me not succumb to the belly when I was younger, but progressive physical dormancy and poor eating habits during my medical college days made me a victim.

Exercising is about more than just weight lossOn the contrary, every time I came home for the holidays I would see my parents getting fitter. My dad, a surgeon, went regularly to the gym and my mother, a paediatrician, attended the TFL classes enthusiastically everyday of the week. Their transformation has been awe-inspiring. If my parents could find time in their terribly busy schedule for fitness I certainly had no excuse! So, this time when I came home for my study holidays I joined the TFL classes.

All it took was one class to get me hooked. I am so much more energised, active and finally, feel like myself again.The racing heart and sore muscles are strangely satisfying. It gives me the much needed break from studying during the day and the fuel to keep me going.

Previously I was a cardio freak. Now TFL has helped me understand how important weight training and flexibly are for holistic fitness. I am now more aware of what I eat and have stopped treating my stomach like a garbage bin.

Like Dr. Sheela always says “Do it for your health, looking good is just a great side effect!”

– Dr. Ashwini Krishnamoorti

Click here for more TFL client testimonials.

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Ask Yourself Why You Want to Lose Weight

This article was first published in The Hindu in March 2010.

Having dealt with women wanting to lose weight over the last 15 years, I often ask and am asked these questions:

How does being overweight affect society at large and vice versa?

How does society react to you individually when you lose weight?

How does social pressure influence your decisions to lose weight?

The whole idea of losing weight to fit into social norms has taken on a whole new dimension. What with some airlines ruling that obese passengers need to pay for two seats if the flight is full, to insurance companies insisting on a higher premium for clinically obese people who are known to have a higher health risk, being overweight is now not only unacceptable but also expensive. There is more pressure to lose the extra weight for social and economic reasons as well as cosmetic and wellbeing.

Women of the higher socio-economic strata in developed countries are less likely to be obese perhaps due to social pressure to remain slim and also the availability and affordability of nutritious rather than junk food.

The social response 

Some women tell me that losing weight is hard enough; they also have to contend with (well meaning?) friends and relatives who take the liberty of commenting on their new improved appearance, sometimes not very encouragingly.

Some of the comments take on a complicated edge, “you look gaunt’, “you have lost too much weight” and, sometimes even, “you have lost your charm”. Other optimistic confidants insist that being plump suits you or reason that, after all, being overweight runs in the family and so there really isn’t much you can do about changing your genetic inclination.

What could possibly provoke these comments? Perhaps discomfort with one woman’s aptitude for change, to sty motivated and the admittance of one’s own inability to do so.

As one of my clients said, the fact that some of us are “approval addicts” can make it an arduous task to disregard such comments and forge ahead in pursuit of a healthier body.

On the other hand, gaining the admiration of those around you is definitely a catalyst for further improvement. We are all social beings. Appreciation from significant (and sometimes even not so significant) others is meaningful. This is where the right kind of encouragement during the process of change is critical to success.

How do you see yourself? 

It’s an ongoing process of self-discovery. Losing weight is not just about losing the layers of fat. There is also a certain unravelling of one’s persona along with it.

We need to first appreciate our own sense of self, both from a physical and emotional perspective. How we categorise our own selves is crucial to our growth. Sometimes we see ourselves solely as “a fat person”, or “a physically unattractive person” forgetting there is more to that “person” than size and appearance. You ARE not fat. You HAVE fat. YOU are still YOU.

As Gloria Steinem once said, “In my own mind, I am still a fat brunette from Toledo, and I always will be”. Chances are you too continue to think like you did before you lost all the weight and can barely see your altered self. This myopic vision is often a way of trying to ease the trauma of ‘change’ from within in addition to the distorted or altered behaviour of people around you.

Changing how we look also requires that we change how we think about ourselves. We need to recognise whether our entire identity resides with our physical appearance or if we have other outlets for our creativity and selfhood.

As women, I believe the pressure to be attractive is enormous. Wanting and trying to improve one’s appearance is different from depending totally on physical attributes to quantify oneself. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong or self-indulgent about desiring to look better, how and why you go about it is fundamental to determining if the change will be lasting and satisfying or only another step towards further turmoil.

In this context, unhealthy starvation diets, abusing and disrespecting the body will be counter-productive not only to health but also to one’s self-esteem.

It is true (and research has proven), that being emotionally troubled or stressed has a critical impact on our physical selves and vice versa. Women, in particular, are susceptible to external factors like opinions of others, suggestions and advice. Perhaps we are more insecure as a species or just more accommodating to social pressure.

There is often a deep-rooted difficult psychological background for most overweight women. It is not as simple as “jump on the treadmill and shed those pounds”. Although doing just that solves half the problems, including elevating one’s mood, following through is not as straightforward as it may seem. This is why, psychological counselling along the way helps stay on track.

Motivation, approval, denial, low self-esteem etc play a role in the state of one’s body.

Motive

So it comes down to this: What (or who) are you losing weight for?

Identification of your own motive is the first and foremost pre-requisite before starting on any kind of self improvement campaign, be it weight loss, improving posture, eating healthy, giving up alcohol and nicotine and so on. Often the very objective of the exercise is questionable.

Social pressure aside, it is necessary to delve into one’s own mind to identify reasons for wanting change. If these reasons don’t stand up to scrutiny, the results are often not sustainable. So for instance trying to lose weight for a boyfriend is never the best idea in the long term (the boyfriend may not last for instance, then what happens to your weight?). Wanting to lose weight to look good is perfectly fine as a motivating factor. Along the way, more self discovery often happens and you also start to feel good. Wanting to lose weight because it’s good for your health  or to better manage a disease is a great idea too. Your focus is then more than just on weight but also on fitness levels and health parameters. As you start to reverse a disease (like diabetes) with a good exercise plan and diet, you start to feel really motivated to continue and sustain it.

Self sabotage

One’s own actions and thoughts sometimes prevent change. Fear of stepping out of one’s comfort zone, in this case, being overweight and being accepted as or labelled as an “overweight person” may find one self-sabotaging one’s diet or attempts at regular exercise.

Question your reasoning when you find yourself making excuses to exercise. Is it fear of failure or fear of success?

Losing weight does not happen in a vacuum. There will be repercussions from within yourself and those around you. Knowing what you really want is important to keep you focused and motivated and understanding your true requirements will help you perhaps be more indulgent of uncalled for advice. As you know change is never easy, even if for the better.

Using Exercise to Prevent Injury

This article was first published in The Hindu in May 2017.

Have you ever bent down to pick up something and had this terrible spasm in the back, knowing immediately that you’re in for several days of ‘rest and physiotherapy’? We often perform daily activities incorrectly, either because we have no idea just how to do them right, or because we are unable to do them right due to weakness or an imbalance.

Muscles exist as pairs in our body, one on either side. For instance, a pair of quadriceps in the front of the thighs that extends the knee joint. They also have opposing or antagonistic muscles that perform the opposing action. So for example, the quads, as fitness people like to call them, have the hamstrings, at the back of the thigh, that flex the knee joint. These muscles must act in synchrony for us to be able to walk, run, squat, climb and sit. If there is an imbalance between these muscles (as there often is), the result is awkward and difficult execution of movements and a resulting injury or pain.

For a pain-free, active life, we must strengthen muscles throughout the body. Without this, muscles often deteriorate and atrophy (become less) with disuse. Here are three common moves we all perform in our day-to-day life, and how to optimise them, for easy, graceful mobility.

Bending to pick up something heavy

Illustration for MP

The right way: Get close to the object (or the child), squat (bend knees), bring the weight close to the body and stand up, holding the weight as close to the body as possible. 

Develop the muscles: Do the bent-knee dead lift. Stand behind the barbell (or a heavy balanced pole—for non-gym people), feet hip-width apart. Hinge at the hip by pushing the hips back as you bend forward. As you lower further, start to bend at the knees until you are able to reach and grasp the barbell in the centre. Inhale as you lower. At the lowest point of your forward bend, you should feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Depending on the flexibility of the hamstrings, some people may be able to lower the upper body quite far without having to bend the knees, while others may need to bend the knees at an earlier point. As you exhale, pick up the weight; straighten the torso by fully extending the hip and knee joint. The barbell remains close to the thighs. In the final position, stand up straight, shoulders back and engaged, while carrying the barbell. Lower again by keeping the barbell as close to the body as possible. Don’t allow the weight to touch the ground. Lift again and repeat for 8-12 times. Rest for 30 seconds and do another 3-5 sets.

Reaching up to bring something down from a shelf

Say goodbye to pulls and pressures

The right way: Stand directly beneath and slightly away from the shelf above. Reach up, grasp the object, so the weight is evenly balanced in your hands. Lower without arching the back or leaning backwards. 

Develop the muscles: To develop core, shoulder and arm strength, the plank and shoulder press work well. For the plank, support yourself, face-down on your forearms and toes on a yoga mat. Keep the back flat, abdominals engaged, neck aligned with the spine, so you are not looking too far up or down. Breathe normally. Hold this position by keeping the core engaged for as long as possible. Work up from a 30-second hold to about 90 seconds. The core includes muscles of the abdomen, back, pelvic floor, deep hip and shoulder muscles.

You can do the shoulder press sitting, with your back straight or standing with feet hip-width apart. Hold a pair of dumb-bells in both hands, with palms facing forward, upper arms at the level of the shoulders, and elbows bent at right angles. Lift the weights by straightening the elbows, and push them straight overhead, so arms are parallel, almost touching the ears on the sides. Reverse the movement by bending the elbows and bringing the dumb-bells back to shoulder level. The movement needs to be performed slowly. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions at each routine. Use a weight that is heavy enough for you to complete just 10-12 repetitions.

Pushing a heavy piece of furniture

Say goodbye to pulls and pressures

The right way: Place yourself directly behind the weight, in a staggered stance (one foot in front of the other), engage the core (tighten stomach muscles), bend forward slightly at the hip joint, place both palms on the side of the furniture, and push with the back flat, engaging mainly the chest and shoulder muscles. 

Develop the muscles: Practise the push-up and plank, to strengthen chest muscles, the shoulders and the back of the arms or triceps. For the push-up, go down on your hands and knees. The palms are placed flat on the mat beneath your shoulders, but wider. The knees are placed directly under your hips on the mat (beginner), or slightly behind the hips (intermediate) or you could go up on your toes (advanced).

Breathe in and lower the upper body towards the mat, by bending the elbows. Lower the chest till it almost touches the floor between your two palms. Exhale as you lift to starting position. Repeat 10-20 times.If you feel you can’t get down on the floor just yet, start with the chest press exercise, which uses dumb-bells to build up strength in the very same muscles, then progress to push-ups.

Fat-Burning Myth

The concept of weight loss and fitness is shrouded with several myths and misconceptions, the most common one being eating certain foods that will burn fat.

Some of the miracle foods that have been frequently listed are lime juice, honey, green tea, spices such as cumin and cinnamon, grapefruit, cucumber, yoghurt, garlic, quinoa and oatmeal.

harshal-s-hirve-50029-unsplash

But the truth is these foods will not burn fat. For fat to be ‘burnt’ it has to be used as fuel. Increasing expenditure of energy by moving and exercising more is the only way to use fat as fuel.

Simply eating a certain kind of food will not achieve the same results. Some ingredients like caffeine, spices, garlic, etc increase the metabolism of the body for a brief period of time following consumption and can lead to a temporary, marginal increase in calorie burn. All foods, when consumed, will require a certain amount of energy for digestion. This is called the ‘thermic effect’ of food. Some foods have a greater thermic effect than others. Protein, for instance, has a higher thermic effect than a simple carbohydrate. Digesting protein burns more calories than digesting simple carbs. Just consuming these foods however does not lead to any significant fat loss. There is absolutely no evidence to prove this myth.

However, all the above foods can be beneficial to the body. They have some key nutrients that are important for proper functioning of the body and keep your digestive tract healthy by improving the gut microbes.

Moreover, consuming such foods may also indirectly help in cutting down nutrient-poor foods. For example, drinking lime juice early in the morning is great especially in hot weather. Though it does not have the ability to miraculously burn fat, it could limit your intake of tea and coffee with added sugar and thereby cut calories.

Green tea has beneficial antioxidants called catechins which are known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and improve brain and heart health.

If you ate only grapefruit all day, there is a good chance of losing weight. This however is not the miraculous property of the fruit, but the general decrease in calorie intake.

When eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet, these foods provide great health benefits and help in weight loss if they can prevent you from indulging in processed fast foods with additives, flavourings and sugar.

Big companies that produce and market ‘fat-burning food’ have mastered the art of advertising and selling. The psychology used is an offer of a convenient solution for something that we desire deeply — to lose fat — packaged and marketed beautifully.

Take green tea for instance, the chances of buying a tin of expensive green tea is certainly more if it says “helps burn fat” on its packing, as opposed to “helps improve brain and heart health”. Just losing pounds is good enough! We can be slim with Alzheimer’s!

danika-perkinson-1055412-unsplashDiets that include ‘fat burning’ foods are numerous and impressive. That particular combination of exactly 1½ tsp of honey with lime juice, using the juice of just 2 limes, will help you lose weight is too attractive to ignore.

We prefer to believe in these miracle solutions especially when it comes to weight/fat. It suits us to think that something beyond our control has led to our weight gain and we need something extraordinary to help us get rid of the excess baggage.

I would suggest however that instead of focusing on weight alone, improving health and fitness levels by incorporating a regular, sound exercise programme, focusing on healthy balanced diet, including the fat burning foods, along with proper management of stress, sleep and relationships, will most certainly bring better, long lasting results.

Our obsession with fat, weight, size and appearance at the cost of neglecting deeper health issues has only compounded the problem of obesity and illness.

Food companies have capitalised on this anxiety by selling products that claim to help us lose weight at a drastic speed or provide ‘low fat’ versions of your favourite foods which are devoid of nutrients and instead supplemented with all kinds of additives to keep us addicted. The Internet is rife with products such as the latest berry or herb from some exotic, remote part of the world that claims you will drop five sizes.

The long-term complications of fad diets, eating certain foods exclusively or eliminating whole food groups, are numerous. Let us not be victims of these marketing strategies at the expense of our well-being and instead think sensibly about fitness and wellness by including simple solutions like regular exercise and healthy eating habits.

This article was first published in The Rotary News in April 2017.

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus has raced ahead as one of the most prominent contenders for ‘Disease of the 21st century’ and India has the proud privilege of being the diabetic capital of the world. Diabetes Type 2, the more common kind, refers to a disease that usually makes its appearance after the age of 40. What is horrifying now, however, is that even children in their teens are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes so it can hardly be called ‘adult onset’ anymore. 

diabetes

Let’s start by trying to prevent diabetes altogether. If you are a person of Indian origin you are more likely to have an inherent predisposition to the disease. Compound that with our lifestyle like food habits (especially the huge amounts of refined carbs and sugar most people in India consume), sedentary lifestyles, poor sleep, and stress levels, the chances of developing the full-blown disease is higher.

As a result of poor lifestyle habits like sedentary living, obesity and unhealthy food patterns, Diabetes type 2 appears much earlier in life and is rampant in the Indian subcontinent as this article suggests (1). I have patients tell me that they are resigned to the fact that they will develop diabetes since they have a ‘family history’ of the disease. This is not necessarily true. While there is a genetic component to diabetes (as with many other lifestyle diseases), Epigenetics plays a large role in the actual development of the disease. 

Epigenetics

This exciting field of research has revealed to us that our lifestyle, (what we eat, how much we exercise, how we manage stress, how much sleep we get and so on) play a critical role in the ‘expression’ of a gene. What this means is that even when we may have inherited the gene for a particular disease, it does not necessarily imply that the disease is inescapable. We can certainly prevent it with our lifestyle choices. Even stress is implicated in the development of diabetes (2). Consuming sugar, for instance, can be a cause for diabetes, hypertension and heart disease (3) So… lifestyle matters…. a great deal. 

What do we do about it? How do we prevent it? 

This is not an exhaustive review of the prevention and management of diabetes. Instead, it is a quick read to run you through what you can do to both prevent and manage the disease.

Fitness, Food & Lifestyle is the cornerstones of both prevention and management. 

Food

Diabetes

Stay off sugar. Yes literally go on a no-added-sugar diet. That includes refined or unrefined sugar, jaggery, honey, molasses etc. Artificial sweeteners have not been found to be safe. Stevia (which is a natural plant) is your best bet if you must have something sweet.  Remember that most packaged foods (even savories) have added sugar. Consider sugar a treat to be eaten on very rare occasions. You get used to it! Your palate adapts beautifully and if you go off sugar completely and after a while, you really do develop a dislike for the sweet flavor. I can just see some people saying, ‘Now why would I want to do that?’. The answer to that will be, ‘Because you will thank yourself later for making that choice’.

  • Stay completely away from processed or refined food, which tends to rapidly increase blood sugar levels (besides adding calories). This includes white flour, packaged foods and snacks and anything that says ‘refined’ or ‘processed’.
  • Eat more fiber – in the form of vegetables and fruit. Fiber slows the absorption of glucose from the food and keeps the blood sugars stabilized. This would mean eating about three to six cups of vegetables and a couple of fruits a day (depending on your weight, gender, activity level and so on).
  • Ensure you get enough nuts seeds and healthy fats. Fats in your food also slow absorption of sugar and keep you sated longer.

While on your medication, be attentive to the timings and quantity of your meals. Long periods of hunger or binge eating result in wildly fluctuating blood sugars. Every meal needs to be well planned and contain a combination of complex carbs, protein, and good quality fats to slow the absorption of glucose. 

Exercise 

Exercise
Depending totally on medication to control your diabetic condition is, at best, a pretty shortsighted strategy. Including regular exercise for instance not only burns calories to keep your weight, sugar in check and so on but also has been found to
control, modify, slow down the progression or even reverse the disease and its outcome. Besides, the obvious benefits of exercise like weight loss, stronger bones and muscles, more flexibility, better mood, and higher self-confidence apply for a diabetic as much as anybody else to improve the overall quality of life. 

What kind of exercise? 

Include Aerobic activity, Strength training, and Flexibility to your routine. 

Aerobic activities like walking, running, cycling etc. burn calories and utilize blood glucose for energy. Depending on your body weight and weight loss goals, you would need to exercise aerobically for about 30-60 minutes every day. If you are already diabetic you should still be exercising aerobically at least 30-60 minutes/day. Cardio is great for diabetics and to prevent the disease. If you are already diabetic on medication, however, keep in mind that long duration cardio may cause drops in blood sugar levels making you feel faint and so on.

Interestingly HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training has been found to be very effective in diabetics (as this article (4) shows) for both fat loss and effective sugar control without the drastic and sudden blood sugar decline. HIIT is much shorter in duration but with intervals of high-intensity work.

Strength training on a regular basis (using weight machines, dumbbells, barbells, and own-body-weight) increases muscle mass and eventually decreases fat percentage. So why build muscle? How is that related to diabetes? Can we just not do cardio?

As this article shows (5), Strength training is crucial if you want to build muscle mass and better manage Diabetes. This aspect of fitness is very often neglected. Training with weights encourages the movement of glucose into the muscles and improves sensitivity to insulin. This may mean a decrease in dosage of insulin (if you are taking it) or other diabetic medication over time. Weight training 2-4 times a week is adequate to show improvement in muscle mass and strength.

Stretching is an integral part of any routine. Stretching every day, or incorporating a modality like Yoga to your routine will keep you agile, improve posture (which is often the result of muscle imbalance), prevent injury and muscle soreness.

stretching

Work on your balance. Balance and strength training reduces the likelihood of falls and injury, which could prove dangerous, particularly for a diabetic whose wound healing is impaired. This is especially important for an elderly diabetic.

What special precautions does a diabetic need to take while exercising? 

  • Get a medical clearance from your doctor. Work with someone like a Lifestyle Medical Practitioner who is familiar with exercise for Diabetics.
  • Have regular health checks to monitor the disease and your blood sugar.
  • Confer with a fitness consultant familiar with your disease to plan and supervise your routine for you.
  • Check your blood sugar level before and after exercising initially until you get familiar with your activity and the way your body responds to your workout.
  • Check your feet for blisters or sores before and after exercising. There is no such thing as ‘just a little blister’ for a diabetic. That ‘little’ blister could become a full-blown ulcer or abscess that can tailspin into an unmanageable infection.
  • Wear properly fitted shoes and good quality socks. It is worth investing in superior quality training gear. Not only will this prevent unnecessary injury, it will keep you motivated to continue exercising!
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercising. Plain water is fine.
  • Always warm up before exercising and cool down afterward.
  • Have a snack or fruit handy just in case your blood sugar levels drop too low.
  • Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of low blood sugar and recognize them at the earliest.

Don’t let diabetes get in the way of your fitness. Some people, for fear of ‘going hypo’, avoid exercise altogether. However, this happens more often in insulin dependent, Type 1 diabetics. If you are cautious and aware of the precautions while exercising, there is no reason for you not to exercise regularly and lead a great quality life by experiencing all the positive spin-offs of regular exercise. Being fit helps you gain some semblance of control over this disease and your life in general.

Symptoms of low blood sugar – known as ‘going hypo’-

  • Dizziness or a general feeling of lightheadedness
  • Difficulty in focusing even slurring of speech
  • Nervousness and tremors
  • Sweating and weakness
  • Intense hunger
  • Palpitations
  • May lead to loss of consciousness

Diabetes is not fun and the repercussions of uncontrolled blood sugar are quite dreadful, affecting various parts of the body like the kidneys, eyes, and nerves. But what is quite shocking to me is how easily people adapt to living a ‘diabetic life’ with just medication and without really trying to manage it effectively with lifestyle. They blithely pop an extra anti-diabetic tablet and proceed to devour sweets with abandon. They gaily progress from taking anti-diabetic tablets to insulin, gradually evolving to higher and higher doses to control the blood sugar (which by the way is the symptom of the disease and not the disease itself), not recognizing that the medication itself has its own side-effects in the long term.

The disease is actually both preventable and reversible if you do it right. Yes, it takes effort and discipline. I would think however that discipline now is worth a better quality of life for the future.  

Reference:

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15645957

2) https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/11/06/stress-may-increase-type-2-diabetes-risk-in-women

3) Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic…

4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334091/

5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21425888

Are You Training the Right Way?

Your workout could be potentially dangerous if it is not fine-tuned to your needs. Dr. SHEELA NAMBIAR

Are you training the right way?The fitness industry has, no doubt, undergone revolutionary changes over the last decade. The appearance of gyms in every street, the availability of jobs for trainers, fitness managers, physiotherapists etc has created an increasing awareness about it. The easy accessibility of a fitness facility for most people, particularly in the cities, has encouraged them to start exercising; or so I would like to believe!

Are gyms keeping pace with advancement in science and training techniques? Are trainers qualified enough to make informed choices about the exercises they choose for you? Are gyms offering the right kind of training or could these exercises be harming you?

“One size does not fit all” is an axiom that holds good for fitness training as for everything else in life. Each individual has to have a specific goal in mind and train accordingly taking into consideration age, gender, lifestyle, fitness level, time available for fitness, medical history and a host of other variables.

Training

There are hundreds of exercises that are demonstrable but do you need to execute all of them? Which ones are safe? Which ones are required? Which ones are relevant? How does one make that choice? Ideally, a trainer should be able to. Not all of them do however. Sometimes I find clients are given unnecessary, even damaging, exercises in the hope of producing quicker results.

Often the repercussions of incorrect and inappropriate exercise are not evident immediately. It may be years before your knees show wear and tear after incorrect squatting or running technique. This is not to say one has to avoid performing these exercises altogether. What it means is that while executing these potentially injury-causing moves, watchful training and correction is required from your trainer.

Some clients need to be trained even to walk or run correctly. One would imagine that walking and running comes naturally. Apparently not! This is especially so of those individuals who have never participated in any kind of physical activity in their childhood or youth. The muscles seem to have forgotten how to function optimally. As a result, they tend to injure themselves even with the simplest of exercises. They need extra care and a vigilant approach to training to prevent injuries and further setback.

What is vital is a keen knowledge of the human anatomy and physiology. Understanding how the body responds to stress, (exercise is a form of stress) and the disadvantages of certain exercises is essential to prevent injury. Other issues worth considering are:

What happens to the body when one begins to exercise?

How the muscles, heart and lungs respond?

What possible problems might the individual face along the way?

What precautions need to be taken?

If you are new to weight training, ensure you are taught all the basic exercises properly before moving on to more advanced ones. Request assistance whenever required. If something does not feel right, stop. In your anxiety to see quick results, don’t be lured into gimmicks and unhealthy strategies.

Ask questions. It’s your body; you need to understand exactly which muscle you are working. Understand how to execute the exercise perfectly and how you could possibly do it wrong. For instance, the squat is a wonderful exercise to tone, shape and build the lower body.

There are several ways to do it wrong however, particularly if one has weak thigh muscles. A tall person will have difficulty in performing the squat with perfect form initially, for instance, due to his anatomical disadvantage. Being tall raises the centre of gravity and increases the length of his levers (the legs, in this case). This tends to cause the knees to travel beyond the toes and the body tilting forward to compensate for balance and an attempt to lower the centre of gravity while performing the squat.

How do you circumvent this problem? The solution is multi-fold. Besides constant supervision to ensure correct form, it is important to first strengthen the leg muscles in isolation before attempting the squat. Performing selective quadriceps, hamstring and gluteus muscle strengthening exercising before incorporating a compound exercise like the squat will prevent injury to the knee joint.

The add-ons

Massage, sauna and steam do not help you reduce fat! If fat loss is your goal, work hard, include cardio and weight training into your routine and watch your diet. Lying around, being massaged may be wonderfully relaxing but it certainly does nothing for your weight, however tempting it may be to believe otherwise.

Diet

You need to include a well-balanced, nutritious diet to get the best benefits from your fitness routine. Extreme low calorie diets are not sustainable and often have adverse effects.

You need to understand food from a holistic perspective and how to eat as a lifestyle, not as a temporary weight-loss, strategy. You don’t need someone planning out menus for you. What you need is to understand food and implement your own choices.

Supplements and fat burners

What’s wrong with healthy wholesome food? Get a nutritional analysis done to ascertain how much protein you actually consume. Only if that is insufficient and if you are unable to include protein from natural foods should you supplement with protein powders. A recreational exerciser definitely does not need it. Understand how to include various protein options in your diet. Consuming protein powders does not directly translate as an increase in muscle mass. Sensible training is what does. Creatine, glutathione and other isolated amino acids have been widely propagated. Long-term safety has not been confirmed. Randomly taking supplements and fat burners does not improve health or fitness. Besides, they are expensive. Investing in healthy holistic food is a more sensible option especially when one thinks of it as a “lifestyle”.