The phrase "Health is Wealth" is an eternal truth. Ideas of good health and well being have been with us for ages and it was sage Patanjali who realised that yoga could help people lead healthier lives.
Numerous inventions and discoveries over the last two centuries have made the lives of billions of people easier. In fact, it’s not wrong to say that all inventions were created to make people’s lives easier. Yet many inventions have also allowed people to adopt a sedentary lifestyle; although bad habits have led people to adopt such a lifestyle as well.
Being healthy doesn’t just mean being happier, healthiness is also strongly correlated with longevity and financial success. Most people who are very successful are also very quite fit. Importantly, having a fit body signals to the world that one is physically active in all aspects of one’s life including work. Most successful young entrepreneurs today regularly hit the gym where they’re not only able to burn calories, but also refresh their minds and relax. In urban metro’s today being young and successful means looking physically attractive as well.
Just a few decades ago the importance of health and wellness entered the limelight in India largely because of the poor lifestyle so many Indians had adopted. An increasing number of Indians suffering from obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic disorders, and cardiac issues is the result of many adopting an unhealthy lifestyle. Since these issues grew common, people have also grown conscious about finding ways of preventing them.
As people’s awareness about how to be healthy grew (though a very small fraction of people is aware of how to be healthier), they started to make changes to their lifestyles including taking up exercise, practicing yoga, and eating a proper diet and health supplements. Gradually health & fitness have become a point of discussion everywhere. Now, it’s common to see a lot of people discussing how to stay fit and many are joining fitness centres; appointing nutritionists has become common among fitness freaks who want an attractive physique to impress friends and to help score in business as well. As proof consider that crash diets, keto diets, and cheat meals weren’t heard of until a few years ago.
However, is this obsession with fitness justified? To answer this question let us first understand and define what fitness is.
A body can be said to be fit if it acts efficiently, is productive in all aspects of life, and if it remains healthy and is immune to minor diseases and disorders. The body's ability to respond quickly (quick reflexes) to stimulus is also a definition that a body is fit.
To see if a body is fit we can classify people in two categories. Those in the first category feel that they are healthy and should not be concerned about fitness. Those in the second category feel they are following an unhealthy lifestyle and they want to adopt a healthier lifestyle. People in this category adopt activities like crash diets, keto diets, and rigorous exercise simultaneously.
Though both categories of people are at risk, it is people in the second category who pose more danger to themselves. In the quest to have a fit and lean body such people often end suffering from anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia means a loss of appetite and bulimia is an emotional disorder characterized by wrongly perceiving the body to have a bloated shape. It is accompanied by an obsessive desire to lose weight, eating excessively, followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging. Many people suffering from anorexia and bulimia suffer from poor health and aren’t fit at all.
Such an obsession to be fit indicates an imbalance in the body’s hormonal system. Hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and cortisol are important to regulate normal body functions. When there is an imbalance in these hormones, problems arise.
Cortisol is the hormone responsible for maintaining normal homeostasis (normal body functioning). It helps the body prepare for a fight or flight response whenever it is under stress. Cortisol is released in the body in response to stress and low blood sugar levels. So when people adopt an improper diet or a poor diet, it induces low blood sugar levels called hypoglycemia. Sensing low blood sugar, Cortisol is released in the body from the adrenal glands and signals to the body that it is under stress. A chain of reactions is then triggered leading to increased heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, insulin suppression etc. Being Anorexic or eating less keeps cortisol levels high leading to disorders like blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, compromised immune system, heart-related issues, gastrointestinal problems, fertility issues etc.
People also want to be fit by burning more calories than they consume. Many young fitness freaks that’re successful in business hit the gym or take up rigorous physical activity with the purpose to lose weight to excel in all spheres of life. While it is a good idea to burn more calories than consumed, it is of the utmost importance to supplement the diet to make up for the calories burnt. If one does not supply the body with the right nutrition, then one is endangering one’s health because the likelihood that one will get a chronic disorder or immune deficiency increases.
It is good to have a fit and healthy body, yet balancing between the extremes of fitness and poor health is the best approach to have a healthy and fit body. Importantly, one must understand that our body is designed to be healthy unless we decide to make it otherwise. A healthy body equals a healthy mind.
Arvind Jain, Co-founder and Director of AS-IT-IS Nutrition