“True Fitness”

What is “True Fitness”?

Most people apply the word “fit” loosely, and will use it to describe anyone who is visibly “slim” or “muscular” or “young”, etc. They also use it to describe someone who can accomplish a physical task e.g. “run a marathon”, or “climb a mountain”, or “bench press 200lb”.

Is a person “bench-pressing” 200 lb. fitter than a person pressing only 20 lb.?

Is a person running 22 km. in 2 ½ hours fitter than one walking 5 km. in 1 hour?

Is a person with a Body Fat % of 18 fitter than one with a Body Fat % of 30?

(The obvious variables like sex and age being equal)

What if the person pressing 200 lb. suffers a shoulder injury that requires a surgery a couple of years later?

What if the person running 22 km. has a desk job and sits at a table all day long, slowly developing cervical spondylosis that restricts his ability to exercise 5 years later?

What if the person with a body fat % of 18 has a strong family history of Diabetes and becomes insulin dependent by the time he is 35?

Physical fitness is only one small part of overall good health.Fitness tests are designed to measure each aspect of physical fitness, but their biggest flaw is that they measure a single aspect of fitness, and they measure it only MOMENTARILY. Whereas these tests are important to design new exercise plans, or determine suitability of sportsmen, they seldom reveal how healthy your life will be. Fitness rating is not important in the long race of life.

by Adyot Rajadhyaksha

by Adyot Rajadhyaksha

Here is my uncle who lives in USA. He is 82 years old, and has the enthusiasm and ability to drive 500 miles to catch a music show. He has the strength and stamina to walk up a steep fortress to enjoy its beauty. He has the zeal to travel to different parts in India whenever he visits, and the patience to tolerate all the obstacles that such a travel brings.

He has never run a marathon, never bench-pressed 200 lb. (or anything for that matter), and probably never checked his Body Fat %.

He has been “Unfit” by most acceptable standards of fitness, but I think he makes a great example for “True Fitness”.

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Exercise and People “of age”

Just remember, when you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.”
― Charles M. Schulz

Pandit Jasraj ji has been enthusiastically exercising in our clinic after his recent Cardiac procedure.

Pandit Jasraj ji at PrakrutiSSPC Pvt Ltd


Exercise is integral to health, and no pill or medicine or injection or surgical procedure can give the benefits that only exercise can give.
Exercise in the elderly helps
1.       Cardiac function and blood circulation to improve endurance
2.       Breathing and lung health to prevent fatigue
3.       Muscle building to ensure enough strength for daily activities

4.       Co-ordination and balance to prevent falls
5.       Build Stronger bones to prevent fractures
6.       Increase flexibility to improve joint functions and reduce pain
7.       Elevate mood to prevent depression
8.       Improve memory to keep senility at bay
9.       Control or reduce body weight to ensure well being
10.   Regulate hormones to improve digestion and sleep
11.   Increase immunity to keep infections away
12.   Strengthen the body and mind to recover from illnesses that are not in our control

Exercising OUTSIDE the home environment increases commitment: more people are likely to stick to an exercise plan and exercise longer per session if they go out for it. Going to a place outside home also improves confidence, elevates mood and increases functional skills in the elderly.

Walking is not the only exercise that the elderly should do. A combination of all components of fitness is required to give the above mentioned benefits. It is never too late to begin an exercise program and it always yields benefits as long as it is planned specifically for you.

Hippocrates said “Not too little and not too much” and that is just how an exercise program should be designed.

Overcoming personal and social reservations, the elderly should step out into safe exercise zones to reap the benefits of a planned exercise program.

P.S. Charles Schulz, my favorite cartoonist growing up always had perfect insight into everything!!
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Uric Acid

Uric Acid is the end product of Protein synthesis in the body. Purines are present in all proteins in varying degrees. Uric acid is produced when there is a breakdown of “purine” containing proteins. The body also breaks down its own cells regularly (older cells are broken down, and newer ones are created all through life in a process we all know as “metabolism”). The breakdown of these cells also releases purines contained in them.

Every day this uric acid released in the blood is filtered and excreted by the kidneys, and a small amount by the intestines. This results in a controlled level of uric acid concentration in the blood which is ideally between 3.4-7.0 mg/ dL.

Sometimes though, this level may increase due to an increased intake of proteins/ excessive breakdown of the body’s own cells/ decreased intake of water and fluids/ dysfunction of kidneys/ excessive intake of alcohol/ hypothyroidism/ certain medicines like diuretics, blood thinners, low levels of aspirin, some vitamins, etc./ excessive and extreme exercise or starvation diets, and certain other diseases.

Excess Uric acid in blood may result in painful joints (gout, which occurs when there are crystal deposits in some joints), can lead to Kidney stones, and is even believed to be an indicator of certain diseases like hypertension, Cardio-vascular disease and some others.

Low levels of Uric acid may occur due to very low protein intake, large amounts of water retention, high doses of aspirin, and some other drugs.

Levels of Uric Acid in the blood tend to fluctuate through the day, and will change with foods eaten, fluids consumed, exercise, rest, etc. Generally they tend to be higher in the morning and lower in the evening. Since most blood tests are conducted in the morning, there is no need to panic with a slightly higher count and start with medication that you may not require.

A sensible approach is often better: try using the above information to alter the way you eat, drink, and exercise!

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Looking After Your Back When You Are At The Desk All Day

  1. Sit with a good back rest. If your chair does not provide it, carry a back rest with you!
  2. Elevate your work station so that the computer screen is just below eye level when the back is straight (this will encourage you to sit straight and not stoop)
  3. Every two hours, exercise as follows:
    • Stretch out alternate legs as shown: keep the back straight, and slowly and smoothly stretch out each leg holding for a few seconds before releasing. Feel the stretch at the back of the thigh.
    • Sit straight and tall, and taking support of the chair, gently rotate your spine as shown. Hold for a few seconds before releasing and then rotate to the other side.
    • Placing your hands in the small of the back, gently bend backwards. Hold for a few seconds before releasing.
    • With feet widely placed firmly on the ground, relax your body slowly between your legs. Hold for a few seconds, and then roll up as if you were rolling open a carpet.. one vertebra at a time.
    • Rest against the back rest, and take a deep breath in. On the out-breath, press your low back on the support and tighten your belly so that the rib cage comes closer to your pelvic (hip) bones. Breathe in, relax, and repeat 10-15 times.
    • Stand up and stretch your calf as shown on a wall/ step in your office.

You are now refreshed, and can go back to work for two hours.

Disclaimer: All exercises are not safe for every back condition. Please consult your Doctor before making use of this advice.

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“Carbs”: The new bad guy of nutrition

So often lately, I hear “Carbs” referred to in such a derogatory fashion, that I wonder what they feel about themselves! Are they really upset? What about their self-esteem? Do they feel worthless, felonious even? After all they have allegedly led us all to obesity and disease!!
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Someone MUST play the devil’s advocate!! So here goes: I am going to make a case for “Carbs” and let you be the jury!

nullCarbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (“macronutrients are nutrients that the body requires in relatively larger quantities as compared to “micronutrients” required in smaller quantities). The three macronutrients being, Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. Obviously, carbohydrates are required in a large quantity by the body.

The three macronutrients are used by the body for different purposes. Proteins are used to build the cells of the body, and also act as channels that help transport of other materials in and out of cells, make up enzymes for digestion, etc. Fats are used to line important organs of the body for their protection, make up important hormones, act as solvents for some vitamins, act as emergency food stores and also keep us warm in colder climates. But for energy requirements of the whole body, as well as brain function, the body prefers carbohydrates.

Almost all foods contain some amounts of carbohydrate in them. Major stores of carbohydrates are found in starchy grains, cereals, and underground roots and tubers (e.g. rice, wheat, oats, potato, etc.). The other foods that contain carbohydrates are all fruits and vegetables. These tend to be watery, and contain large stores of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre that are required for our well -being.

Carbohydrates are easy to digest, the easiest being fruits and vegetables which can also be consumed without cooking. They provide quick and usable energy, keep the brain sharp, the body disease-free, and the digestive system healthy. In fact, they should form a major part of everybody’s diet (some eaten without cooking, and some with light cooking). The carbohydrates that need processing or cooking, like cereals, grains, and tubers are also important, but should be consumed in slightly smaller quantities, as they are calorie dense, take slightly longer to digest, and can be stored by the body in very small quantities (large “chapatti, rice, and potato” meals will be converted to fats by the body for storage).

nullWhat needs to be completely eliminated from a “weight-loss” diet, are the calories coming from sugary snacks, desserts, biscuits and bakery items, breads made from “maida” or highly processed cereals. These are also carbohydrates, but completely “empty” of any nutrients, dense in calories and fats, and sometimes the dreaded “trans-fats”! They also tend to be devoid of fibre; and eaten at the expense of fruits and vegetables, can lead to other digestive problems. I would also like to point out that alcohol is also a modified carbohydrate, and so are all aerated drinks and other juices!

For the sake of ease, all sources of carbohydrates are clubbed under the umbrella-heading of “Carbs”, but what most people really mean when they use this word, are “cereals”. Cereals too are the good-guys, just eat less of them, and make sure you eat them in the least-processed form.

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Finally, unless medically advised or essential for any other imperative cause, moderation and balance is recommended even while choosing foods and diets!

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SHAME (India lost two daughters recently, one in Delhi, the other in Patiala….)

While one had the whole country praying for her,
Another was fighting alone…
Both were young, so young…
I am sorry to say we lost both…

One unified a country wanting justice,
The other just a statistic we’ll soon forget…
Both were daughters, and sisters…
I am sorry to say we let down both…

The first one, they broke her body,
The other, WE broke her heart!
Both were strong fighters…
I am sorry to say we failed both…

One was killed by a brutal attack, we all know,
The other died silently while we looked away…
One battled as the nation watched for 13 days…
The other struggled alone for 45…
One was probably too battered to survive…
The other alas!!! How do we explain her loss?
Both were young, so young…
The one we have made our real hero…the other, let’s face it, is our true shame…!!!

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Is “gymming” a bad word?

People, who regularly exercise, generally divide themselves into two groups: the ones who love “gymming” and the rest who hate going to the gym. Increasingly, it is more fashionable to train in various other ways: functional training, Pilates, Yoga, Power Yoga, Cross Fit classes, etc. In fact, weight training has almost become a bad word, and we often find it really difficult to convince people of its benefits.
 
Strength training has several benefits throughout life.
In childhood, though free-play is more important, children in sports may find that training with therabands and body weight exercises, can improve performance and correct imbalances created by their chosen sport.
 
In young adults, training with weights helps to build strong bones and long strong lean muscles. It helps to develop good posture, increases confidence and enhances personality. It focusses the mind, helps concentration, memory and co-ordination. Well-planned strength training helps injury prevention, as well balanced strong muscles protect joints and ligaments from injury.
 
In older adults, weight training brings the biggest benefits. It keeps metabolism high at a time that it will naturally slow down, helping to keep body weight in check. It reduces bone erosion and prevents/ delays onset of osteoporosis. It keeps joints healthy by maintaining their range and lubrication. It prevents muscle loss, hence helps preserve the muscles involved with balance and co-ordination. It keeps the brain healthy and sharp. Training with weights helps maintain posture and wellness, keeps the confidence high and prevents several age-related diseases.
 
In the old, continuing light weight training will ensure better balance, lesser risk of falls and fractures, less bone loss, better mobility and independence, an active brain, better co-ordination and a continued feeling of self-worth.
 
Why then is weight-training looked at with disdain? Weight training has traditionally been looked at as a means of enhancing appearance, or “bulking up”. The application of training methods hence has been tough and exacting. An “all or nothing” approach that instructors have towards “gym” exercises needs to be reviewed and rethought.
 
Using the relevant and well-chosen strength exercises with modifications in resistance, repetitions and sets; using different gym and rehabilitation equipment (thera bands, pulleys, weighted cuffs, etc.); mixing up exercises using intermittent cardio; and including some other forms of exercise like Pilates and Yoga can give an interesting, effective and safe exercise plan for any age group.
 
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The Spirited attack

The stage for the exciting Olympic face-off between Murray and Federer was set after the Wimbledon final where Murray lost to Federer in an extremely emotional match. In fact, Federer’s Olympic fate was probably decided and sealed that day itself!

When you try to win something that someone else wants equally badly, the stage is set for a really great competition: Sport is all about winning and losing. The spirit of the game, and the satisfaction of participation is important, but champion sportsmen play with their body, mind, and soul with an aim to win. That is why, at the end of intense competition there is so much emotion all around; and let’s face it, if it was not emotional, it would not be sport.

After the Wimbledon final this year, Murray left in tears, his fierce determination to win further whetted; Federer left in smiles, his sharp competitive spirit probably slightly blunted with the satisfaction of a big win.

Motivation is the foundation of athletic success. Motivation directs all effort to a focussed single point. Motivation can be external or internal, positive or negative; and sometimes, failure or success can themselves act as motivation. Top level athletes can use acute failure to transform their game, change their circumstances, focus their efforts, rise up and win a big one.

Federer is a great player, but then so is Murray! In a clash of equals, each with his own set of strengths and weaknesses, game-plans are made in advance keeping these in mind. Federer does well in longer matches, and he knows it. His strength lies in the fact that he can out-play opponents in lengthy four and five set matches with seemingly no change in form, and no hint of tiredness. To use this strength, he has to lure his opponents into long matches. He plays tennis like he is running a marathon. He starts slowly, running across the court at leisure: he loses some points, sometimes a few games and sometimes a set. He doesn’t let that affect him: he knows his opponent is getting tired. Federer slowly builds up his game from the second set onwards hitting powerfully and running with agility just as his tired opponent starts faltering.

His game plan worked well at Wimbledon this year. But less than a month after that epic final, at the same venue on a larger stage, a highly motivated and on-fire Murray did not allow the match to spill over into a tiring fourth set.

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The Winning Breath

Anyone who saw the Federer vs. Murray final at Wimbledon this year will agree that though both seemed well matched in the initial sets, what finally decided their fate was probably Federer’s endurance, the effortless ease with which he crosses the court, and his quick recovery from breath-taking effort.

If you watch them closely you will see that Murray is a “mouth-breather”, playing almost throughout the match with a partially open mouth. Federer instead, plays with lightly pursed lips, breathing mostly through the nostrils, using mouth breathing minimally.

Breathing techniques can affect athletic performance!!

The cells in the body are constantly making energy by combining oxygen (O2) and nutrients in a chemical reaction that releases carbon-di-oxide (CO2).  Breathing provides the O2 for this constant requirement and also removes the CO2 produced. During exercise the body requires more energy, and obviously more O2. It also generates and needs to remove more CO2.

Blood constantly carries both these gasses to their destination: O2 to the muscles and CO2 to the lungs for removal. The body circulates the blood with great care, making sure that the organs that are working most receive a constant supply.

How does the body know where to send more blood? There are many systems in place, but the most important one is the tissue CO2 content. As soon as muscle work increases and more CO2 is made and accumulated, the blood vessels in that muscle get stimulated and they dilate to increase blood flow. The increased blood supplies more O2 (the same CO2 trigger stimulates the haemoglobin in blood to release more O2 to the working muscle!) and removes the accumulated CO2, thus increasing the CO2 content of the blood. This in turn stimulates the lungs to breathe faster and deeper to take in O2 and remove this excess CO2.

Now think about what happens when a player continuously breathes out through the mouth: By blowing out through the mouth, an excessive amount of CO2 is lost quickly from the lungs, and hence from the blood and the muscles.  With less CO2 in the muscles, the CO2 trigger is lost (in short there is nothing to remind the body that work is going on and the muscles require blood). The blood vessels contract to divert blood to other areas, and the haemoglobin in the blood refuses to release too much O2. The muscles keep working of course, but now without enough O2, leading to a painful accumulation of Lactic acid in the muscle and heralding early fatigue! There is a similar narrowing of blood vessels in the lungs and those supplying the brain. This means less O2 absorbed in the lungs and less O2 supplied to the brain. The result is slight dizziness and disorientation.
Just imagine what even a slight loss of concentration can do in a high level competitive game!

Breathing in and out through the nose means that there is a natural resistance to airflow as it leaves the body. CO2 is not lost quickly, and there is more time for the lungs to absorb O2 and exchange CO2. It also means that the tissues/ muscles that are working get abundant O2 for performance, and there is less Lactic acid build up and less fatigue. Nose breathing also ensures that the lower part of the lungs (Which is full of blood vessels) gets more fresh air, so scope of O2 uptake is high. Interestingly, training while using “nose-breathing” simulates “high-altitude, low oxygen training” and can improve performance.

There is one more reason athletes should breathe mostly through the nose. Mouth breathing is for emergencies and so is also designed to stimulate the body’s “Fight or Flight” response. This means that the heart rate increases, and the body is on alert. While this is OK for situations requiring quick response, chronic mouth breathing means a constant state of mild anxiety and poor response time in crucial situations. Nose breathing on the other hand signals to the body that all is well, calms the mind and body, reduces the resting heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, increasing endurance and quickening response time in emergencies.

Humans are not exclusive nose breathers. It is essential that we take in a little extra air once in a while from the mouth. It is also essential that we breathe out a little extra CO2 once in a while from the mouth.

But the true champion learns to alternate between the two so subtly that he maintains his blood gas levels at a neutral throughout, ensuring that he remains calm and strong, effortless and effective, quick and accurate as Federer was when he created history on 8th July this year at Wimbledon.

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Are we kindling the fire?

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled”_ Plutarch

I sat beside my fifteen year old son, in the midst of other parents and children, clapping for the school toppers of the ICSE examinations 2012. For the record, there were a whopping 124 children that got between a 90 and a 98.8 % in ICSE this year from our school alone.A host of thoughts flew through my mind: the clapping was mechanical. Sure, I was really happy for the children and their proud parents: watching success and achievement being appreciated and rewarded is inspiring; uplifting. We clapped for all 124 of them. I am sorry to report that the claps slowly died down somewhere below 94% and only a constant goading from the comparing teacher ensured enthusiastic applause into the 90’s!! I think I clapped loudest for those who were brought up last on to the stage (the children who got 90%). I kept thinking how horrendous to work hard, get more than a 90% and then not be clapped for the way you deserve!!

After the honours came the lectures. We were counselled by teachers who told us how organised study in a stress-free environment was the key; parents of successful children who told us how good food and rest as well as regular stock-taking from the parent was required; and then by the children themselves who each gave their take on “how to crack the ICSE exams”, in short how to score above 90%. All the speakers laid emphasis on the fact that participating in extracurricular activities, and spending time on play and rest, was important and did not come in the way of their success.

My child is now in the position these children were last year: He has just entered the “10th” standard, and it is my duty to groom him, support him, aid him, feed him, look after his every need; as well as reassure him, motivate him, correct him, teach him, and not “stress” him, so that he can reach that “magic number”.But what if, after all our effort, he doesn’t? Unfortunately, no one talked about the approximately 200 children that did not get above 90%, but did well anyway. They were not invited to the presentation, their parents did not share their thoughts and the teachers did not make an example of them. I have been a proud parent of a child who scored 82% in the ICSE a few years ago, and he worked really hard for that 82. Being an aspiring musician, he participated in all the music competitions and events that year, enjoyed play time and other outings with friends, and made adequate time for hard-core study. But he did not score a 90, and alas, that is all that matters when we appreciate children and their efforts.

The word “Education” comes from the Latin “educere” and literally means “to lead out”. The role of the teacher then, is to lead the pupil out to where the light of knowledge exists, or to draw out the hidden talents of the student. Socrates said “I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think”. Unfortunately, education today seems to be just a never-ending series of assessments and judgements; and instead of increasing the capacity for independent thinking, is in fact enforcing a standardized curriculum and replicable reasoning.

When all the time is spent memorising lessons and practising “previous years’ papers“, how can the teacher light up the child’s imagination with the fire of knowledge?

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One Response to Are we kindling the fire?

  1. aliCIA says:

    :) Thanks for sharing you experience Dr. Harshada..very well expressed…through this little journey out here…Ive realised that only good students make great teachers..cause they never stop learning, not matter what may be the situation- where? when? what ? why ?..God bless teachers like you..Tc have a great day.

    Best regards to you and your team

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  • Dr Harshada Rajadhyaksha

    In Sanskrit, the word “Prakruti” means “Nature”: the primal motive force of the Universe; Ayurveda recognized that no two humans are alike, and called this basic, very unique, individual constitution, “Prakruti”.

    At Prakruti Sports Science and Physiotherapy Clinic, we provide the environment, expertise, and support required to assist natural healing.

    True healing begins from within the self: Doctors and Healers can only assist along the process. After 22 years, we continue to remain humble in our approach to diagnosis and treatment, our focus remains on the complete wellbeing of our patients, and we continue to promote the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases in the community.

    Our patients’ trust and faith in us, and our honest concern for their wellbeing has been the foundation of our success.