Every Bit of Exercise Counts

Category: Health Wellness

Every Bit of Exercise Counts

Posted by Sophia Tan on 22-Jul-2022 08:45:00

             I am probably the last person on earth to talk about the benefits of exercise. When I was in primary four, I gained so much weight that I was put in the FAT – sorry – TAF (Trim and Fit) Club as I had overindulged in sweets and ice cream. Since then, I have only lost weight after some serious illness but always put it back on after.

              During the Circuit Breaker two years ago, I started working from home like everybody else and the only physical activities I did were household chores and my leisurely morning walks. The Covid situation dampened my spirits and I was very lonely without the company of friends and colleagues. Teaching over Zoom at my study desk for hours on end started giving my creaks in my neck. I saw a doctor who diagnosed me with cervical spondylosis, a condition affecting the spinal disks, or as they say, “Ageing lor.”

              Feeling depressed, I took out my frustrations on food and when it was finally time to go back to work, I was aghast to realise that my work clothes did not fit anymore. At the same time, my hypothyroidism continued to worsen despite being on regular medication. I had put on even more weight, felt terribly sluggish and the aches and pains were so bad on certain days, it was hard to get out of bed. It was a vicious cycle that made me feel even worse about myself.

              To make things worse, my back started to hurt as well. This time, it was lumbar spondylosis. ‘Great,’ I thought to myself. I’m not even that old. The back surgeon sent me for physiotherapy, which turned out to be a lifesaver. It turned out I wasn’t as unfit as I had thought, and it was possible to reduce the pain with regular exercise. The physiotherapist taught me simple exercises to strengthen my back and legs, and encouraged me to find the joy in exercising. I started doing stretching every morning, and resumed my gym membership.

              Finding the motivation to begin was tough, but once I got onto the treadmill again, I could not help but feel better as a result of being physically active again. Sweating it out helped clear my thoughts and made me feel more energetic. If I follow BMI standards strictly, I would need to lose 25% of my body weight to be in the right weight range, which is very daunting. However, my physiotherapist had also assured me that BMI is not always the best method to measure body fitness. What is more important is getting an adequate intake of the right foods and physical activity. I understood that the weight did not pile on overnight and will also take time to reduce. I put on weight bit by bit, and likewise, I would also get my fitness back bit by bit.

              Very often, we hear people lamenting, “Oh I’m too old for exercise now!” Back in 2011, a 100-year-old British man of Indian descent, Mr Fauja Singh, ran his first marathon in just over 8 hours and 11 minutes. His aim was to raise money for charity and he had only started running at the age of 80! In case you are wondering, he is still alive and 111 years old this year! He is also known as the Turbaned Tornado and Sikh Superman. (Read article on Mr Fauja Singh below)

              Some friends closer to my age group also run great distances often, and don’t seem to break a sweat. I’m probably not going to be running any marathons soon, but these days I celebrate small successes such as running longer distances on the treadmill, or clocking more steps in a day. My clothes are not so tight now. My aim is not to look like a celebrity, but to be healthier so that I can achieve a better quality of life in my remaining years. As the population continues to grey, let us remain physically active so that we have more energy to do the things we enjoy. Gardening, taking walks, and even housework all count as physical activity, and help us keep our minds sharp. Every bit counts.

- Contributed by Sophia Tan

100-Year-Old Man Finishes Toronto Marathon -

Topics: Health, Wellness