Be active, eat wisely

by | August 29, 2009

Staying healthy does not just mean regular exercise, it also means eating right

BY: Arnold Goh
Published: August 29, 2009


As we grow older, exercise plays an important role in helping us stay active and healthy. There are three elements to an exercise programme that you should know about:

  1. AEROBIC EXERCISE – This consists of briskwalking, running, swimming, cycling or any form of activity that raises your heart rate over a period of time involving major muscle groups, for example, the shoulder, chest, legs, back, abdominals and arms. Generally, you should progress slowly from 20 minutes to 60 minutes, five days a week at moderate intensity.
  2. STRENGTH TRAINING – This uses free weights or fixed-weight machines that works the major muscle groups. You should work out at least once or twice a week with 10 to 12 repetitions, one or two sets per exercise.
  3. STRETCHING – This should be done to warm up the muscles in your body before exercise and more importantly, after exercise. People often neglect to do this or they rush through it. Stretching (picture) has many benefits. It reduces the chance of injury when playing a sport, and it increases the blood and nutrient supply to muscles and cartilage, thereby reducing muscle soreness after training.

Running and briskwalking are two aerobic exercises that are beneficial to older adults in terms of staying active both socially and physically. But as we grow older, it is difficult to sustain long, slow distance runs. One way is to break the long distance runs into segments, with walk breaks inserted. The run and walk distances will depend very much on your fitness level. Besides measuring in distance, you can also measure it by time, for example, running for 30 minutes or one hour.

As for first-timers, make sure you take more or longer walk breaks. If you are unable to run, consider briskwalking as an alternative. Similarly, instead of run/walk it will be briskwalk/walk. These two methods can also be beneficial to those on recovery training after an injury. As for strength training and stretching, it is advisable to perform the exercises under supervision. If you have never exercised before, do seek your doctor’s permission and to assess your fitness level before going head-on. It is better to be safer than sorry!


Not all just exercise

The exercise programme however, will not be complete without the inclusion of the food that we consume daily. Diet is an integral part of the whole process of ageing gracefully and healthily. It is advisable to consume five small meals rather than three large meals a day. This helps to maintain a constant blood sugar level so that we feel more energetic throughout the day. Also, don’t eat until you are 100 percent full but rather when you have the first hint of fullness.

So what food should we choose? The food we eat should consist of these macro-nutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fats.

Carbohydrates – Most of the daily calories should come from this group. It should consist of mostly unrefined carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and multi-grain foods.

Protein – You should consume this in lower proportion as compared to carbohydrates. It should come mostly from white meat such as fish and chicken breast meat. The Okinawans who are said to live long lives eat very little meat as well as little fat and refined sugars. Three-quarters of their food come from plants, with lots of fruit, vegetables and fibre. 

Fats – Do not avoid this group but consumption should be kept to a minimum compared to carbohydrates and protein. This group should come from monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fats. Restrict intake of saturated fats to a very minimum and totally avoid trans fat.

We should consume enough fibre both soluble and insoluble, which comes from vegetables and fruits. When it comes to snacking in between main meals, choose healthy snacks such as fruits and nuts. Most importantly take enough water to hydrate oneself. And keep everything in moderation – too much of a good thing is not good at all.

By eating well-balanced food daily, the body is assured of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to keep the body physically and mentally active. And if you are wondering, what about vitamins – these should be taken only if necessary. Food in itself has all the important nutrients. If you are not getting enough of a certain amount, do consider vitamins. Vitamins are not to be seen as a replacement of a meal but rather to complement a meal.


The above article was contributed by Arnold Goh, 45, a qualified personal trainer. He also has done a number of triathlons and marathons, and continues to run, swin and cycle each week.





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