Move for Health Day

2014-05-09 00:00

THE World Health Organisation has declared tomorrow World Move for Health Day. The purpose of this day is to encourage physical activity and wellbeing on a global and national level.

A lack of physical activity is one of the main risk factors contributing to chronic diseases of lifestyle such as heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression and anxiety. This is a shocking fact that can be reversed relatively easily by making a few positive changes in our lifestyles.

Lack of exercise and physical activity can lead to sleep deprivation (and in turn depression and anxiety), weakened immunity, impaired motor skills in young children and, of course, an increased likelihood of undesired weight gain and obesity.

With development and change in the world as we know it, physical activity has been replaced with TV, computer games, and catching up on social media. These sedentary activities have done our next generation no favours, and most youngsters are suffering from the deprivation of social interaction and imaginative play that outdoor activity fosters.

Move for Health refers to activity of moderate to vigorous intensity that anyone can do anywhere, at anytime. Before you rush out eagerly to break a sweat, let’s look at how to exercise safely in a manner that is sustainable.

• Warming up is essential. It allows your heart rate and breathing rate to increase, resulting in increased oxygenation of the muscles and therefore increased ability to yield energy. If you start exercising at a high intensity too quickly, fatigue sets in much earlier. This holds true for any sport. Warming up for a few minutes before playing a match will substantially improve the energy levels and performance of the team.

• Always aim to be well-hydrated before you start exercising. Starting off dehydrated will cause you to lose stamina and fatigue earlier, reducing concentration and hampering sports skills abilities. Children dehydrate more easily, and get much hotter than adults while exercising. It is essential to encourage active youngsters to drink consistently during the day, and to have at least one cup of water 45 minutes before exercise. Adults should have at least half a cup of water 30 minutes before exercising.

• Drink often during exercise. Plan a drink of water or sports drink within the first 20 to 30 minutes (earlier in children) and drink at regular intervals from then on. Water is generally fine for activities lasting less than one to one and a half hours. However, sports drinks or diluted fruit juices may be useful for higher intensity and longer duration bouts of activity.

• Gather glycogen. To maximise your energy levels, eat within an hour before exercise — fresh fruit, a few dried apricots, or low-fat fruit yoghurt are ideal.

Eating regular meals with enough carbohydrate is essential to keep glycogen stores topped up. Glycogen is stored mainly in your muscles and is used for energy in virtually all exercise. Moderate intake of carbohydrates in a balanced eating plan is plenty for activities lasting less than 1½ hours. Athletes who carbo load eat very large amounts of carbohydrates in order to maximise glycogen stores. This is only useful and necessary for endurance-type activities.

Use Move for Health Day 2014 to try something new such as a dance class, a walking group, or playing vigorously outdoors with your children at least once a day.

Overcome the obstacles and enjoy being more active.

• Sharon Hultzer is a consulting dietitian. She can be reached at eatsmart

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