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     Volume 4 Issue 12 | September 10, 2004 |

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Straight Talk

Healthy Living

Nadia Kabir Barb

Something that I have noticed recently is how people seem to be getting more and more health conscious. They appear to be increasingly aware of the need to maintain a healthy life style by eating more healthily and also how even the bare minimum of exercise can be beneficial. I am no believer in extreme dieting or a back breaking exercise regime but both in moderation must be worth trying to achieve.

What I have heard and read, is that once you start exercising, you actually feel good afterwards. This is supposed to be partially attributable to the release of endorphins ("endogenous morphine") that our body produces naturally. Endorphins are chemicals produced in the brain in response to a variety of stimuli, and are thought to be nature's cure for high levels of stress. Discovered in 1975, endorphins are among the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which function in the transmission of signals within the nervous system. At least 20 types of endorphins have been demonstrated in humans, and they may be located in the pituitary glands, other parts of the brain, or distributed throughout the nervous system. So prolonged, continuous exercise like running, long-distance swimming, aerobics, or cycling appears to contribute to an increased production and release of endorphins. This results in a sense of euphoria that has been popularly labeled the "runner's high."

In fact I finally convinced myself that doing a little bit of exercise would be good for me and decided to take action by booking myself into a gym! The minute I took the decision to become a member of our local gym, it instantly gave me a feeling of well being! I hadn't even begun exercising and seemed to be producing endorphins! The fact that the gym was within walking distance and a few of our friends were also members helped in the decision making process. The first step was to actually take a look at the facilities and try it out before signing on the dotted line. My husband accompanied me as he probably felt that on my own I would probably never actually make it to my destination. When we arrived at the health centre, we were greeted by the staff, given our towels and shown where to locate the changing rooms, gym area and swimming pool. The sight of so many people working out in such a dedicated fashion was quite intimidating. So I decided that the safest option for me was to use one of the exercise bicycles as I did not want to provide light entertainment to the other members by flying off the treadmill or showing my ignorance by not knowing how to use the different types of equipment.

As I got on the bike, I was confronted by a whole array of buttons and instructions. "Quick Start", "fat burn", "cardio", "random" (come on, what exactly was random supposed to mean?) were only a few of the options in front of me. Finally I saw the word "manual" and pressed it hoping it was the right one and started pedalling. After a minute I kept getting the message, "put hands on the sensors for heart rate" flashing on the screen in front of me. The problem was I had no idea where the sensors were! There were half a dozen people behind me on the treadmills and must have thought I was mad as I tried putting my hands on various parts of the bike hoping to find the sensors. I couldn't even catch my husband's eye to help me out so I spent the next few minutes placing my hands here and there with no luck. The time given on the machine was twenty minutes but after ten minutes I was totally out of breath and my legs felt like jelly so I just gave up and dragged myself off the bike. As I had no idea how use the other weight machines I did a few sit ups and tried to look like I was busy until my husband joined me. Subsequently, we both joined and have been back a few times after having an induction session with an instructor who showed me how to use the different machinery and put me on a relatively manageable regime. Yes, I have figured out where the sensors are on the bike and figured out what "random" means.

For those of you, who are not doing any exercise whatsoever, just try it. You really don't even have to join a gym; you can just start with a few freehand exercises like touching your toes, doing sit ups etc and you will notice the difference within weeks. My husband is at this point wondering if I am an impostor as I have been so anti-exercise in the past that my advocacy of exercise is unthinkable. So don't waste time and go and release some of those endorphins…




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