By Binu Dhindsa @ZumbawithBinu
For many South Asians, regular physical exercise is not a way of life. The Heart and Stroke Foundation tells us that regular physical activity can dramatically lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. We also know that physical activity reduces the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. So why don’t more South Asians participate in regular physical activity?
In a report delivered at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress a few years ago South Asians reported less access to home exercise equipment like treadmills and bikes and less access to convenient physical activity facilities like gyms and community centres.
Exercise is not only great for controlling weight but also for improving heart health. Those of South Asian descent often have more risk factors for heart disease and stroke as compared to the general population.
However, regardless of one’s cultural background, it’s never too late to make a lifestyle change. That is, it’s never too late to start an exercise program to control the risk factors or to improve one’s overall health.
There are many exercises we can do in our day that doesn’t feel like exercise. For example, we can:
-use the stairs instead of the elevator
-park at the back of a parking lot
-power walk during a lunch break
-garden or do housework
Some of the best activities are those that include our families. Doing something with your kids, your spouse or your parents not only gets everyone moving together, but also gets everyone engaging together. It’s a great way to catch up on everyone’s day, talk about challenges or just share fun moments.
With summer around the corner, we see kids and adults outside more walking, running and even skipping. Skipping is one of those exercises we can do with our families. The equipment is minimal, inexpensive, and can be done anywhere. You can make up games together, all skip independently and create a contest, or just skip over a line on the driveway.
There are multiple benefits of skipping. Your heart health is improved by challenging your cardiovascular fitness level. Don’t worry, the more you do the less breathless you will become. Don’t forget about your arm and leg muscles.
Skipping is a great weight-bearing form of exercise and your arm and leg muscles will definitely be challenged. As you skip more often, your coordination will also improve. But best of all, skipping is fun.
There are lots of fun games you can play and variations in skipping. You can do the one hop, double hop, running, or arm crossover, just to name a few. A great way to skip is to pick a few of your favourite songs and just skip until the songs end. Or you can count until your feet catch on the rope and keep working to beat your record.
If you are just starting, try doing an interval training method. That is, do 30 seconds intense, then 1 minute light; and repeat 5, 10 or 20 times through that interval.
How else can we get skipping into our lives and the lives of our children? Think about creating a challenge in your family or with friends. Many schools in Canada participate in the Jump Rope for Heart program, where kids learn about physical activity and giving to others. Parents can encourage their kids to participate in the fundraising on their own or within their schools.
JumpRopeForHeart.ca reports that only 7% of Canadian children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day. Think about that and think about how you can encourage you and your kids to increase the physical activity in their lives.
Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2009, www.heartandstroke.com “South Asian Canadians failing to get exercise message”.
Before starting any new exercise program please be sure to consult with your family physician.
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