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According to a doctor, regular physical activity can help children and adolescents improve cardio-respiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression

We cannot discuss health and well-being independent of sports and other such activities that enable a person to stay active. In the pandemic, we have all learnt that a healthy body is one which is doing well both mentally as well as physically. And taking up a sport of any kind can help one add more years to their life, and ensure those years are peaceful health-wise.

On the occasion of National Sports Day today, which is celebrated every year on August 29 to commemorate hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand’s birthday, a doctor explains why we should exercise daily to keep good health.

According to Dr Manjeet Singh Arora, senior general physician at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, regular physical activity can help children and adolescents improve cardio-respiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and reduce the risk of developing health conditions.

Benefits of sports and physical activities

1. Many athletes do better academically: Playing a sport requires a lot of time and energy. Some people may think this would distract student-athletes from schoolwork. Sport requires memorization, repetition and learning — skill-sets that are directly relevant to classwork.

2. Sport teaches teamwork and problem-solving skills: Fighting for a common goal with a group of players and coaches teaches you how to build teamwork and effectively communicate to solve problems.

3. Physical health benefits: Sports can help you reach your fitness goals and maintain a healthy weight. They also encourage healthy decision-making, such as not smoking and not drinking.

4. Sports boost self-esteem: Watching your hard work pay off and achieving your goals develops self-confidence.

5. Reduce pressure and stress: Exercising is a natural way to loosen up and let go of stress.

Dr Arora says exercise and sports promote good health in the following ways:

* Improved cardiovascular health
* Lowered risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
* Weight management
* Reduced blood pressure
* Enhanced aerobic fitness
* Improved muscular strength and endurance
* Improved joint flexibility and range of motion
* Stress relief
* Lower risk of certain types of cancer
* Cholesterol control
* Reduced risk of osteoporosis
* Strong immune system
* Improved sleep
* Mental health benefits
* Prolonged life

Which sports activities must you take up?

“Walking (recreational), fitness or gym, running or athletics, swimming, cycling, basketball/tennis, football, etc. In the pandemic, we might not get to engage in a few of the activities mentioned, but some can be done, such as walking in isolation or cycling,” says the doctor.

One must also be mindful of their diet, which should include:

– Fruits
– Oatmeal
– Starchy vegetables (sweet/white potatoes, squash)
– Non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, leafy greens)
– Whole grain bread or crackers
– High-fiber, non-sugary cereals

Food and drinks to avoid:

– Limit consumption of sports drinks
– Avoid soda
– Avoid protein and energy bars
– Avoid saturated and trans fat
– Limit carbohydrates
– Limit caffeine
– Avoid alcohol

Physical activities at least thrice a week is a must. Try:

1. Aerobic exercises at home
2. Muscle-strengthening
3. Bone-strengthening

“In the end, make it a habit to eat breakfast daily, within one to two hours of waking up; then eat again every three to four hours, for a total of five to six meals per day. These meals should comprise mini to moderate-sized meals, snacks, and pre-and post-workout meals or snacks throughout the day,” the doctor advises.

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