Thursday 18 January 2018

Pat Henry: Exercise is the original wonder drug

Working-out cuts down on hospital bills - and it's free, writes our fitness expert

Shelbourne Hotel
Shelbourne Hotel

Pat Henry

This week, one of my clients received a large hospital bill for two nights' accommodation in a public hospital. It came to more than the cost of two nights in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel (pictured) - and it got me thinking: being healthy costs a lot less than being well. And it's more fun too.

So while it's true that medical science can raise our quality of life in so many areas, there is also a lot we can do to help ourselves to avoid the need for medical help in the first place.

Instead of reaching for a pill for every ill, it's worth remembering that vigorous exercise can help with many health issues, such as improving memory, building stronger bones, improving lung power, controlling insulin levels and avoiding diabetes. It also increases blood flow to organs, aids weight loss, increases energy, increases sex drive, decreases body fat, improves sleep, combats depression and generally makes you feel better all over.

For me, weight training, combined with walking and sea swimming, increases strength, balance and lung power. As muscles become stronger, it gives a feeling of your feet being solid on the ground, which in itself gives you confidence. Your clothes fit better, your posture is more upright and you have a good feeling of well-being.

If you like the sound of this, but have never been one for exercise and are unsure how to get started, here are some handy tips:

* Make tomorrow your new starting point to do at least 10 minutes of the exercise of your choice, working up to a maximum of one hour daily. When you reach your target of one hour of daily exercise, maintain this but take day seven off to relax. Give your body time to recover. Give yourself six weeks without giving up on your regime and you really will see a difference.

* Make a decision that no matter what happens, you will achieve your target. Exercise goals could include walking to work, using the stairs instead of the lift, or simply getting off the bus one stop before your destination. Everything in your day makes a difference.

The chart below will give you an indication of how many calories you burn per an average one-hour session.

1. Weight training - 700 cals

2. Cycling 12mph - 410 cals

3. Running on treadmill - 650 cals

4. Swimming - 275 cals

5. Tennis singles - 400 cals

6. Walking four miles per hour - 440 cals

7. Running 10mph - 1,280 cals

8. Rowing moderate - 600 cals

9. Aerobics - 600 cals

It is important to remember that the amount of calories burned during exercise will vary in proportion to your body weight - that is, a heavy person may burn off fat a lot more than someone who is a slight build. However, a rough guide is that it takes 3,500 excess calories to create one pound of fat. So if you lose fat weight, even at one pound per week, that is a lot of fat over one year.

As you get fitter, your respiratory system becomes more efficient too, sending blood and oxygen to all body parts from your head to your toes. So good things happen as the body starts to come alive again - your resting heart rate slows down as the heart becomes larger and stronger and pumps more blood to all the vital organs. Your arteries, veins and capillaries increase in size and number to facilitate faster exchange of oxygen and nutrients into the cells and push out waste and dead cells.

Exercise is the original wonder drug. And the best news is - it's free. In fact, it would be a great incentive if we were all guaranteed a tax break for becoming healthier. The Government has made small steps in this regard, with the introduction of the Cycle To Work Scheme. The next step could be to roll out tax allowances for those taking out gym memberships and entering sporting events.

In certain European countries, you are already allowed to write off some tax if you join health spas and gyms. The net effect of this would be to cut down on those hospital bed costs - which is healthier for our bank balances, and for government finances too.

Seek medical advice, where appropriate, before embarking on an exercise regime.

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