No Extremes: Moderation is Best in Everything

It has rained the past few days all over the island, and no need to say that in Curepipe we are especially privileged!

Frankly, on Wednesday morning I thought that the heavens had come down, so heavy was the rain, accompanied by very strong winds to boot. To walk or not to walk? – that was the crucial decision that I had to take. Yes, I finally decided, I must go to Trou-O-Cerfs. So I waited a while until the burst of gusty rain had stopped, then I set out.

Some years earlier, I thought of myself as a hero: rain or shine, wind or calm, I would sport only a shirt and not use a jacket. I used to find a jacket cumbersome and uncomfortable after a round or two. Then I caught a nasty cold, which developed into a bronchitis. Naturally I had to get this treated with antibiotics and so on. To cut a long story short, my shot at heroism resulted in my not being able to walk for several weeks as I felt weak generally, and particularly in my legs.

I have not tried to be a hero again. My (non-doctor) friends in their wisdom had correctly advised me to protect myself when the weather is inclement, but they also added ‘you are a doctor yourself so you do what you think is best.’ What I thought, and did to myself, was obviously not the best. Doctors are often very good at giving advice on lifestyle (stop smoking, avoid alcohol abuse, do regular exercise, eat healthily, etc), but as regards themselves it’s more often than not: preach but not practise.

In the meantime, an old RCC friend who now lives in England had come down to visit, and brought me a nice gift, the right one – it will be very useful when you go walking he said. It was, and still is good protection, a light wind cheater which has been really helpful. I use it without fail when needed. And I have since, touch wood, been spared of a nasty cold like the one I suffered from earlier. Of course I have always covered my head, because I have been affected by HIV since a very long time: Hair Is Vanishing.

So I have dutifully been using my wind cheater the past few days, and also an umbrella which again I used to avoid before. Like many people who are aging, I thought that my body was as resilient as it has been in my earlier years, and consequently neglected to take the simple precautions that I advise others about. With the goodwill and concern of my friends, I have become a little wiser about myself, and do now protect myself. Of course, it’s not that I am completely immune to a further attack of cold in the future, and have already had some sniffles, but at least I am reducing the risk as far as possible, and that’s about as much as we can do in any sphere of life for that matter.

Further, I do not get obsessed or feel guilty if I miss out on a few occasions, or cut down on the walking time or number of rounds when the circumstances demand, as they did when the weather was foul – although there was a long enough window in the morning to allow some braver ones to venture out, and I am lucky that I could count myself among them.

All these thoughts came to me when I came across a piece of news yesterday about a study that researchers from the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Lehigh Valley Health Network, Pennsylvania, have carried out on more than 3,800 male and female runners, with an average age of 46. Their conclusion, highlighted by the reporter, was that ‘jogging in moderation was the healthiest approach to the exercise’.

Among the findings were that ‘people who sweat and slave in extreme workouts in the hope that they will live longer may be unwittingly harming themselves,’ and ‘those do moderate exercise – amounting to two to three hours of running a week – live the longest, while people running a lot, and those who do none at all, both have shorter lifespans.’ That gave me some comfort and a little boost, that I have not missed out on anything according to this study.

The scientists are uncertain as to why this is the case, although they believe it could be linked to how jogging affects heart health. That’s good enough for me, and I am sharing with others who may be interested, and giving – déformation professionnelle oblige! – some more advice, or tips if you wish.

Jogging, for example, is something I don’t recommend, especially doing it on hard surface. It impacts on the knees, and may in the long run predispose to arthritis, and also give rise to pain, especially as the years advance. This is the case too for athletes and sportsmen who go to extremes for competition purposes. There are published studies showing that they have a higher than average incidence of knee and hip osteoarthritis and also spine problems, especially in adolescents. Walking is by far the safest of all exercises at whatever age, and one may do it at a brisk pace if one wishes to rev up a bit and sweat.

Enthusiasts of jogging may perhaps be aware that its inventor, Jim Fixx, died while jogging at the age of 52 years. He became very famous and a millionaire as the ‘author of the 1977 best-selling book, The Complete Book of Running. He is credited with helping start America’s fitness revolution, popularizing the sport of running and demonstrating the health benefits of regular jogging.’ No doubt he deserves thanks and credit for having created awareness about fitness and health. Unfortunately he himself wasn’t as lucky because he had several ‘lifestyle issues. He was a heavy smoker prior to beginning running at age 36, he had a stressful occupation, he had undergone a second divorce, and his weight before he took up running had ballooned to 220 pounds (100 kg)’.

Although he managed to bring his weight down to about 80 kg and stopped smoking, he had a family history of heart disease and he had a congenitally enlarged heart according to material available on Wikipedia, where it is also revealed that he died of a massive heart attack, with his heart arteries very grossly narrowed.

I suspect that in Mauritius the majority of people who take to exercise will not be in a similar initial condition and need not have any major apprehensions about carrying on. But it’s wise not to overdo, and occasionally not being able to follow the routine need not send one into overdrive the next time round to compensate. It’s amazing how the body can take care of itself if we do not subject it to abuse, which means remaining within the bounds of moderation in everything that relates to living. Beginning with all that we consume, neither too much nor too little.

A simple rule, but guaranteed result for one’s health and well-being.


* Published in print edition on 9 May 2014

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