Figuring perfection

With the festive season in the air, starting with Durga Puja, Diwali, and extending to Christmas, looking fit and stylish is obviously a priority. Inevitably, it is also a time when an assembly line of ads appears, promising to deliver that elusive ideal figure in a jiffy. Every year, numerous fitness fads emerge and disappear to make way for new ones next year. But as more and more people rush to the gym to get in shape in time to be able to flaunt the new clothes confidently, doctors caution about the danger of equating good health with the loss of weight.

“Looking fit and stylish this festive season is everybody’s aim”

It is important to understand that being fit and staying so is a long-term commitment and when rushed, it can cause major health problems – such as stress injuries on muscles and the spine – especially on the lower back, neck, and shoulders. If one wants to be fit and healthy without going to the gym, doctors recommend running or swimming, instead of infrequent exercise and crash diets.

Dr. A. Basu, professor of surgery at SSKM Hospital, Kolkata, emphasizes the need for healthy and sustainable weight loss. While following a two-week crash diet can, indeed, induce weight loss, building muscle mass is impossible within that time frame. Any crash diet usually follows a simple formula of introducing a lot of roughage into one’s diet to suppress hunger pangs. This, when coupled with even infrequent exercise, can result in weight loss, but it is ultimately unsustainable.

The problem with crash diets is that it is done without supervision. Dr. Sumanta Kumar Ghosh, Head of Department, Surgery, at Joka ESI Hospital, corroborates Basu’s view that a person’s long-term physiology is affected by crash diets and intense exercise. Short-term weight loss targets are certainly achievable with the use of fitness fads such as strict diets that induce ketosis by extreme carbohydrate deprivation. Such diets, by severely limiting carbohydrates in a diet, cause high rates of fat metabolisation, which causes immediately visible weight loss. “Slimming centers that offer short-term weight loss programmes commit to what are initially achievable – discernible anatomical changes – which is detrimental to health in the long term,” Ghosh adds.

With the rise of sedentary lifestyles in urban areas, many people take to fitness not only for health reasons, but also to improve self-confidence. Body image issues are on the rise among many young people. But going to centers without proper trainers can be detrimental to the cause itself. An orthopedic surgeon warns that quick-fix slimming centers might simply help build particular muscles which add to one’s aesthetic beauty, while neglecting other important ones, thereby causing a discrepancy in muscle build-up. This creates issues in the normal, smooth coordination of human muscles in day-to-day movement. He emphasizes the need for more comprehensive regimens at gyms that include proper diet and supervision by properly trained personal trainers whose goal is not to focus on aesthetics only, but to improve the overall health and well-being of the client over a long term.
Many responsible gyms are trying to promote a long-term, healthy lifestyle for its members. With the help of nutritionists and personal trainers, people can achieve steady weight loss without causing detrimental health issues. Long-term exercise can help people work on achieving a wholesome and healthy body.

It is recommended to gradually ease the client into the gym-going habit, advising easy beginner exercises like brisk walking, squats, push-ups, and lunges in order to get the body used to working out. Offering customized diet-charts on recommendation by the in-house nutritionist that work in tandem with exercises supervised by physical trainers, they are trying to encourage long-term sustainable fitness goals.

While fitness fads may give immediate results, the long-term health benefits that come with following a proper diet and supervised exercise regimen are the real deal.

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