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Healthy Living

Fitness for Specific Health Conditions
Heart Disease
Back Aches and Spinal Problems


What is obesity?

A person who is twenty percent above the desirable weight( refer Weight Chart in the Nutrition Section) is considered obese. Obesity has been found to be a risk factor in many chronic conditions such as heart problems, diabetes and hypertension. It has also been associated with problems of the gall bladder and the kidney.

What causes obesity?

Several factors contribute to a person’s tendency to gain weight. Some of these are:

  • Genetic loading

  • Certain health conditions

  • Age : The tendency to put on fat increases with age. That is why even though you may weigh the same as you did twenty years ago, your waistline is much bigger now.

  • Job profile : If your job does not involve any physical activity, the tendency to put on weight is greater.

  • Lifestyle : especially habits like smoking and drinking.

  • Dietary pattern

While it is not possible to do much about the first three causes, tackling the rest just requires determination.

What kinds of exercises are beneficial to the obese?

  • Low intensity, long duration exercises are the best. Your exercises should be scheduled three to four times a week.

  • For cardiovascular fitness, walking or stationary cycling is advised. Jogging may tire the leg joints and is not usually advised for the obese.

Only simple strength training exercises like lighter dumbbells are advised. Even if they do not produce quick results, they are helpful in the long run. They increase the muscle weight and reduce fat.

Points to Remember

  • All exercises should be done after warm ups.

  • They should be done at a comfortable pace.

  • The intensity can be gradually increased. All major muscles in the body should be exercised.

  • Spot reduction is not advised. Adopt an overall fitness regimen. Alongside this, you can try to shape up the problem areas like the stomach or the hips.

  • Wear comfortable shoes and cotton clothes.

  • Do not exhaust yourself. If you experience any breathing difficulty, consult your doctor.

  • Drink a lot of fluid, as dehydration is quick among the obese.


What is hypertension?

Hypertension is high blood pressure. It is prevalent among Indians. When there are no other complications, high blood pressure goes largely unnoticed. It is essential to monitor your blood pressure regularly and keep it as near normal as you can.

What causes hypertension?

Only in about twenty percent of all cases of hypertension, can the cause be determined. For the rest no specific cause can be assigned. Stress, obesity and heredity factors predispose a person to hypertension.

What are the exercises beneficial to the hypertense individuals?

Exercise is important in stress relief and weight reduction. Those are two reasons why hypertensive individuals should exercise.

  • A good walking programme is perhaps the best exercise. Cardiovascular exercises in general are beneficial. Strength training exercises are not high priority.

  • Take time to warm up and let the body get used to the activity.

  • Gradually work towards 50 to 70 % of Target Heart Rate (refer Aerobics Section). Exercise between 45 and 60 minutes four times a week.

Points to Remember

Avoid exercises that involve lifting weights over the head or those, which require the head to be below the feet

If you are on beta blockers, avoid vigorous exercises. In any case, do not exert yourself too much. If you experience exhaustion or dizziness check with your doctor.

Take plenty of fluids. Do not exercise to the point of excessive sweating.


Exercise Beneficial to the Diabetic

  • If you are a diabetic, you have to keep your weight in control. You should take care of other aspects of your health, such as blood pressure, eyesight, condition of the heart, so that your sugar levels do not affect these and lead to major health problems. You can use all the benefits of an exercise programme. As general fitness increases, complications due to diabetes are reduced. Cardiovascular exercises are recommended.

  • Walking is ideal. Do the necessary warm ups before the exercise. Start with a twenty minute schedule and gradually increase the duration and intensity.

  • Stretches are also beneficial. Diabetes can lead to shortening of muscles. Stretching keeps you flexible and fit.

  • If there is a pattern to your sugar level, time your exercise accordingly. If you have high fasting sugar, you can exercise before a meal. If the postprandial sugar level is high, you can go for a walk after meal. If your sugar level is high in the early morning have a workout in the evening, so that blood glucose does not accumulate in the night.


  • There is always the chance of hypoglycemia, especially for the insulin dependent. If your sugar level drops as you workout, you are likely to break into a sweat and feel giddy. Keep a light snack or chocolate handy. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

  • Foot care is important. Use made-to-order diabetic footwear, especially when you are following a walking programme. This keeps the pressure on the feet uniform. This also avoids corns and other foot problems. If you have neuropathy, you may not feel the prick of a thorn or a mild injury to the foot. Good footwear and regular examination of the feet prevents complications that might arise

  • If you have high blood sugar and ketones, do not exercise.


What is arthritis?

Swelling with pain in the joints and the tissues supporting it caused by a whole group of diseases is usually referred to as arthritis. Two common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage on the bone endings wears away. Bones rub against each other causing pain and stiffness. In Rheumatoid arthritis the membrane around the joint swells. The cartilage wears away and the neighbouring muscles are affected. This progresses to a stage when the joint becomes immovable. No specific cause for these disorders is known.

What are the exercises that can help?

  • Strength training exercises can tone up muscles and bones. They can help you perform your everyday tasks more easily and with less pain. These exercises can reduce muscle loss. A regular exercise schedule keeps energy levels high and you feel less exhausted.

  • Exercise all major muscles,abdomen, chest, arms and legs. Use light dumbbells, or do push ups, arm circles and leg lifts. Always warm up before workouts. Increase the intensity and duration gradually.

  • Stretching exercises for all major muscles increases flexibility and reduces stiffness. Stretching exercises can be done even on days when you have pain. High intensity exercises can be avoided on these days.

  • Among cardiovascular exercises, those which do not put too much pressure on joints, are better. Walking or swimming can be tried.

Points to Note

At first it might be daunting to exercise stiffening joints. But a steady and graded exercise programme can bring a lot of relief. Some amount of pain may be experienced initially. However, if you experience pain for hours after your workout, check with your doctor.

Heart Disease

Diseases that affect the heart can be congenital or otherwise. A number of factors render the functioning of the heart difficult. The following are some factors that definitely contribute to heart problems:

  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Stress

All these factors can be controlled by exercises.


Before you start an exercise program, have your ECG taken. Take advice from your doctor on your exercise programme.

Some Beneficial Exercises

  • Cardiovascular or aerobic exercises (refer Aerobics section) are aimed at keeping the heart fit. The intensity with which you can perform these exercises depends on your heart condition. Walking, swimming and bicycling are simple cardiovascular exercises.

  • Start with a low intensity schedule, for about twenty minutes, three or four times a week. Test yourself. If you do not feel any discomfort in this period, gradually increase the intensity of your workout and the duration. It is better to work out in a supervised environment.

  • Muscular fitness and stretching exercises have no direct benefit, unlike cardiovascular exercise. But they tone up the entire system and this is an advantage. However, avoid strenuous weight lifting exercises. Always do warm up exercises before starting to exercise and cool down after exercising.

Back Aches and Spinal Problems

Factors that contribute to backache

Accidents, injury and lifting of heavy loads are some obvious events that lead to backache. But more often than not, backache slowly builds up without your knowledge and then it is difficult to specify the cause.

Some contributory factors are :

  • Soft sagging mattresses

  • Poor posture

  • Always Carrying a heavy bag with the same hand or shoulder

  • Slouching at work

  • Excessive bending and inadequate stretching at place of work

  • Emotional tension that can lead to muscular tension

  • Wrong exercise techniques

Prevention is easier than cure

All the above mentioned factors can be dealt with. Correcting posture and exercising the abdominal muscles can go a long way in avoiding backache. When picking up objects from the floor bend at knees. Do not bend your back all the way. If you have acquired low back pain or spondylitis, exercises can help, but they have to be individualised and supervised.

Some beneficial exercises

  • Low impact cardiovascular exercises such as walking or swimming are recommended.

  • Strength training targeted at shoulders and abdomen. Should be low in intensity with many repetitions.

  • Stretches for all major muscles groups, especially legs, hips and back, are helpful.


  • Avoid lifting heavy weights.

  • See that the back is supported while strength training.

  • Wear a weight lifting belt if you can.

  • Avoid jerky movements.


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