Your Fitness Milestones

Like finishing in the first five, most of us have exercised at least once in our lives. But like education, exercise too shows long-term benefits if one goes about it regularly, diligently. They say genius is 99 per cent perspiration. Fitness demands 100 per cent exercising effort and a complementary, committed lifestyle before you pluck the fruits of fitness.

Unfortunately, our educationists took a lot from the English system – but forgot one of its most-important lessons: the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. No wonder most of our school physical training instructors initiate us into robotic knee-jerk programmes that put most of us off exercising for life. We as a people have a lot of unlearning to do when it comes to school and college education. We have to make both fitness oriented – in terms of jobs and physical fitness.

Whether you are running for medals or managing director-ship, you shorten the odds if you have fitness in your comer. Besides, aerobics – like the proverbial apple a day – keeps the good doctor far away, and is a good prescription for all those who place health over hospital. So while it is too late to go back to school, it is never too late to visit a health club. Or – if it is more convenient – work out at home. For it starts right there – like charity.

The length of your workout determines the quantum of fat and calories consumed.

When your body engine is idle, its fuel is glycogen and carbohydrates. Then, as you step into aerobics, your metabolism moves in time with your shifting gears. Initially, about 90 per cent of your energy is contributed by carbohydrates, the balance by fat. As you accelerate your aerobic programme, fat feeds more and more of the required fuel. As you clock 30 minutes, your vehicle draws equally from the two fuels. When you hold course in overdrive for a couple of hours, the two pumps exchange positions. Now your energy requirement is fed 90 per cent by fat, 10 per cent by carbohydrates.

We know that you have neither the time nor the inclination for such excessive exercise. Of course, you don’t have to. For, as in the fable, so in fitness it is the persevering tortoise rather than the erratic hare that wins the race.

Your milestones are simple. Find out your daily calorie imbalance to reckon how much aerobics you require for the same period. Your ready reckoner is the number of excess poundage you have to shed every year. If five pounds per year is your problem, you are crediting 50 calories to your body’s balance sheet every day. It is simple: just add zero to the number of problem pounds you have to fight annually. (Note: 2.2 pounds make a kilogram.)

At the target heart levels you’ll read about later, you require eight to 12 minutes of daily aerobics to shed or control a century of calories.

Now that we have figured out how long and how hard, it is time to calculate how often one should work out every week. Expert opinion has it that a person should train at least four times a week. Anything less is futile in the battle against the bulge.

A clinic conducted by the University of California concluded with some interesting results. Tennis players who had put in six hours a week for over two years were invited to the camp. Doctors measured the circumference and the thickness of fat over different areas of the players’ arms and compared them with the corresponding areas of people who didn’t play,tennis.

This test, conducted in the era of the one-handed player, concluded that the circumference of the racquet-wielding arm was more than the less active one in every case. Constant use, obviously, had enlarged the muscles of the performing arm. Their second conclusion was even more significant: all the tennis players had less fat on both arms than non-players and that exercise pared off fat from the entire body rather than specific areas. In other words, these is no such thing as spot reduction. If such short-cuts helped, people who ran long distances would have thin legs!