Health really matters
Exercise has many benefits and it has become a part of my regular regime.
BY: Lim Kwok Kuen
I have moved from employed to self-employed. Staying healthy thus becomes important. Fortunately, I am blessed with good health but I can’t take it for granted and neither should you. Thankfully the reality of life is that there are alternatives to staying healthy.
I like to share my experiences on good health and how to take control in hopes that you too can enjoy the benefits of good health. (Some of these ideas are extracted from training material that I developed for training my colleagues in my last employment.)
Common medical conditions
We need to understand and accept that we will experience physical-physiological and psychological changes as we age. In terms of physical-physiological changes, these include sensory, skin, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal and musculoskeletal systems.
Though these changes are more prevalent with the seniors, they can also affect anyone regardless of age. In planned response or preparedness, it is wise and prudent to be aware of these physical-physiological changes and their inherent risks.
• Senses – Our senses like vision, hearing, smell and taste gradually weaken with age and we will experience their associated risks. We are likely to run the risk of poor vision. We tend to speak louder due to hearing problems that will affect communication with others. Our sense of smell will be affected and we may be unable to detect for instance, a gas leak. As we advance in age, we tend to add more salt or sugar in our food as our sense of taste deteriorates.
• Skin – Our skin thickens and becomes rough, wrinkled with skin folds and runs the risk of skin cancer due to over-exposure to the sun. It loses elasticity and it becomes more fragile and susceptible to skin disease and pressure sores. Some may even develop allergies to items such as detergent.
• Nervous system – Another area of concern is the gradual loss of nerve cells that slows down our reaction time and makes us prone to accidents. Our sense of balance is thus affected. Sometimes, our sleep gets fragmented and interrupted, and we may suffer from insomnia.
• Cardiovascular system – Major vessels become more rigid due to loss of elastic fibres, which weaken heart contractility. We are more likely to experience incidence of hypertension or high blood pressure.
• Respiratory system – Our lung air sacs become less elastic due to chest cartilage calcification and our ventilation suffers.
• Renal system – With a change in kidney length and blood flow slow down, we suffer from reduced kidney clearance of drug toxicity. Our kidneys at this stage tend to conserve salt and experience water dehydration. It is common to experience alteration of urine excretion, and nocturnal urination.
• Musculoskeletal system – There is progressive skeletal calcium loss after the age of 30 and for women, this worsens after menopause. Also, joints start to stiffen due to calcification in the ligaments.
However, in saying all this, all is not lost. Understanding the changes that are going on is a good start to managing your health matters. The next wisdom is the discipline to act and develop the habit to take control of your health.
As I had mentioned earlier, I am blessed with good health. With the exception of high blood pressure and stiffness in fingers and ankles, I have a clean bill of health, much to the envy of my former colleagues. I believe a lot has to do with regular exercise and a healthy diet. They can and will reduce age-related decline. I know this because I am a beneficiary of a healthy diet and regular exercise.
I used to play badminton but the last 10 years, I switched to briskwalking and the occasional swim. When I see more sunspots appearing on my skin, I switch to a gym workout. At least four times a week, I work out on the treadmill for at least 15 minutes with varying speeds and inclines. This helps to improve stamina and promotes endurance, which is very important to me. By increasing the speed I have to keep my balance, which is part of stability exercise.
Each time I take shower I stand on one leg and raise the other to wash my foot as yet another stability exercise. For strength, which enhances my confidence, I use the multiple exercise equipment to develop my chest, arms and leg muscles. I also enjoy doing sit-ups.
My purpose of exercising is to reduce my blood pressure and increase heart efficiency. I believe the exercise has helped to reduce fat and weight which also contributes to fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Over the years I have maintained a good cholesterol profile. Another noticeable benefit is my lung function has improved.
Personally, exercising has helped me maintain my strength and range of motion. We can’t hope to be as strong or flexible as we once were but we can at least slow down the decline.
Psychologically exercise has also helped improve my self-esteem, sleep, outlook in life, and family and social relationships. It has certainly increased positive mood and thus reduced stress.
Some general advice when doing exercise – don’t exercise when not feeling well and don’t overstrain during exercise. Avoid heavy meals two hours before exercise. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. It is important to warm up and cool down during exercise and work out at an effective, yet comfortable intensity level.
It is very important that you stop and consult your doctor if you develop chest pain and tightness, and/or experience iregular pulse rates, breathing difficulty, excessive cold sweat and extreme fatigue. Otherwise, enjoy your exercise and reap the benefits.
Lim Kwok Kuen, 67, retired in 2011 and had over 10 years in the shipyard business. A “trainer-by-passion”, he continues to stay active – besides hitting the gym, he is writing a management book.