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Get Physical

The title of this article is quite subjective so, before people start reading it, I must clarify right in the beginning that this article is not about getting intimate (although that can be the best physical activity 😜but no, this article is not about that).

The other day a 39 something had a stroke. He was an executive with a large company working from home for the past six months, and this happened to him while he was on a video call with his colleagues in Nov this year. His horrified colleagues immediately called his wife, who quickly rushed to his first-floor office in their home in Gurugram, a bustling city in the northern part of India. Luckily she got there on time. His colleagues called an ambulance, and it took him to a nearby hospital where he is recovering now. Not the kind of news that makes to the primetime slot.

His first question, after he got shifted to a room from ICU, was, “Why me? I am someone who always eats healthy, doesn’t eat fast food, doesn’t smoke or drink as well. So why me?”

Given his age and eating habits, I can understand his confusion as to why he had a stroke? Strokes, though more frequent these days, are not common in his age group, or are they now?

Now consider this, while he was working from home (in posh society in Gurugram) for six months, he worked from morning 7 AM till late evening (sometimes even more) handling a team of sales guys. He had not gone out much during this time because he was working seven days a week and had gained eleven KG weight during this time. Also, he would spend his personal time (if at all he had any time left) playing VR games whenever he was not doing any other work. His colleagues describe him as a hard-working and happy go lucky guy. His wife describes him as a loving husband and a good father to their kid.

What is missing from the above paragraph which can answer his question, “Why me?”

Forget about what’s missing, and that’s elementary here, lets quickly look at the facts:

1. He lives with his family and wasn’t alone at home when this happened

2. His house is in a posh area

3. He had a steady job (considering that many have lost their jobs during the lockdown this is good)

4. He was continuously working for more than 12 hours a day

5. He wasn’t venturing out much

6. Whatever spare time he got, he spent it playing VR games

7. He was not sleeping much (This is evident from the fact that he was doing a lot of work and played games during the spare time).

So, how many red flags did you see here? Quite a few and he’s not alone because I just realized that even I have also been making these mistakes during the lockdown. This person could be you, me or anyone else we know. In our overzealous attempt to follow Covid safety and lock-down protocols to the core, we have sacrificed our physical activities. We have been living under the assumption that only healthy eating will protect us from Covid and help us stay healthy. But in the long run, this can be quite unhealthy. Only eating will most definitely lead to obesity and heart-related ailments, and I reckon this has already started.

There are so many wannabe online health gurus who only propagate healthy diet and herbal remedies to beat Covid. The fear of being infected with Covid-19 virus has forced us to improve our immunity through healthy diet, but we have severally ignored the other part required for good health; physical activity. As a result, we got our diet in place but no plan to exercise. These videos must come with a disclaimer cautioning people not to follow their diet or remedy alone. They must also tell people to remain mobile and do physical activities even if they are locked in their homes.

While eating healthy is good; this Workout vs Healthy diet myth needs to break. Comparing both is like comparing apples and oranges. They both have their benefits, but the benefits of physical activity cannot be replaced with a healthy diet alone and vice a versa physical activity without a healthy diet will not be of any use. Eating healthy is essential, but it will never work out if you don’t combine it with regular physical activity and vice a versa. And, I am not talking about creating a gym at home and lifting metal to stay healthy. Just a regular walk for about half an hour in the morning and after dinner would also do. If you can’t do it outside, then do it inside your home. If you have stairs, then that’s the best way to burn some fat; just walk up and down the stairs. Staying at one place in the same position over a long time can cause complications because your body’s designed to stay mobile. Even the rules of ergonomic safety, which is generally related only to the workplace, says that right movement of your body parts at a regular interval is essential for a healthy workplace posture; be it a desk job or any other standing or sitting job. The same principles need to be applied in all walks of life and not just while working. Poor ergonomic or posture over a long period can lead to muscle strain, muscle imbalances, and fatigue and in the long run can lead to various musculoskeletal disorders as well.

This case study got me thinking, and I have tried to jot down a few points, which can be useful for maintaining a healthy lifestyle while working from home. Also, I must confess that I am not an expert in healthy eating habits (and my wife can vouch for this part 😃) so, use your better judgment about what can be healthy for you and your family. Ensure that you combine a healthy diet with some form of regular physical activity. Also, nothing I am going talk here is rocket science.

1. Accept the fact that any other activity cannot substitute the physical movements of your body. So, no matter how jazzy your VR goggles are, they still cannot act as a substitute for that actual adventurous trek through the mountains. They also cannot replace that real walk through a scary jungle. Also, it most definitely isn’t a replacement for that authentic and exciting swimming adventure in the ocean that you just experienced on your VR console. VR consoles, at best, can give you goosebumps which in the real world cannot be categorized as an intense physical activity. So, leave the VR goggles and go out and walk for real. You might not find an exciting mountain or a jungle or an ocean around your home so just walk through the roads and parks. PS the VR goggle example is only one of the way we kill much needed physical activity time, there can be others.

2. Did you know that the Snooze feature was initially called ‘Agent of Satan’ or the ‘Evil Snooze Time Extra Sleep option’? Call it whatever you want, an alarm is a way of reminding something, in this case waking up, at a specific time and when we use the snooze option, it defeats the very purpose of why the alarm was created in the first place. So, Snooze no more humans, respect thy alarm.

3. Limit your after-work phone and computer usage time (unless it is urgent) — Your kids learn more from you than they learn in School. So, if you spend more time on the phone, they shall follow you. Next time you frown seeing them on the phone then its time you looked at your hands first. Maybe you are using phone way too much than required, and your kids are learning from you? Don’t want to make you feel guilty but by limiting your own phone time you can solve two problems; you have made way to do something physical for yourself, and also you can now rightfully tell your kids to stay off the phone without feeling guilty.

5. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy if you have used this saying at work to promote fun at work activities then its time you use it at home as well. Make your work at home full of fun by placing a dartboard near you. Work from home has no doubt destroyed the boundary between work and personal life, and in the long run, this can have severe consequences. This case study of a 42 something getting a stroke is a testament to this trend. A few ways for fun at work I could think of the hand are a) Dartboard game — Playing dartboard while working can exercise your shoulder and hand muscles. It also helps to relax your eyes. b) Recently I saw someone using a handgrip contraption while he was taking calls. He would keep shifting the device making sure both hands were getting enough exercise)

6. Take regular breaks — After every hour of work on a computer, you must spend 10 minutes standing and look away from the computer screen. This is just me talking; different people might suggest other ways to reduce computer fatigue. What matters is that you change your position; eyes, back, legs, hands etc., every hour. Even if your work doesn’t allow you to take breaks every hour (e.g. call centre work from home) just stand around your work station, stretch and move your eyes away from the screen for some time. You can also do some basic breathing exercises while being at your workstation.

7. Now, that you have limited your after-work phone usage during personal time, find an activity which helps you sweat it out. It could be a simple walk inside your house or stairs or a walk around your home, cycling (biking), playing a game (not Uno, Cards, Chess, video or VR games but actual physical games). Even if you hate the smell of it, sweating is vital to keep your body healthy. As per sweating helps to: increase the circulation throughout our organs, muscles, and tissue, our skin releases toxins such as alcohol and waste products, which allows our body detoxify, the elimination of salt from the body can help prevent kidney stones from forming, prolonged sweating also leads to increased thirst and the need to drink more water, which is also helpful in lowering the risk of kidney stones, the pores on our skin open up and allow for a protective barrier to form against pathogens, thus reducing bacteria on the skin. This can benefit many skin problems such as acne. So, there you go, the benefits of sweating. I am not an expert here, but if something is coming from a site called the Wise Man Practice then it has to be good 😃

8. Use technology — Gyms might be closed due to Covid, but a lot of apps (on all phones) are available which can help you sweat it out. Plans start from basic workout to advanced level workout including aerobics etc. I know this would mean spending time in front of your phone, but this time it will be for something constructive.

9. Eat healthily — What was healthy in the pre-Covid days may not work now when you are spending most of your time at home. It would help if you ate a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods every day to get the vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, protein and antioxidants your body needs. Drink enough water. Eat fruits, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils, beans), nuts and whole grains (e.g. unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, brown rice or starchy tubers or roots such as potato, yam, taro or cassava), and foods from animal sources (e.g. meat, fish, eggs and milk). For snacks, choose raw vegetables and fresh fruit rather than foods that are high in sugar, fat or salt (as per WHO) Again, I am not nutrition expert so do your research about what to eat while working from home.

10. Sleep well — No matter how much disciplined you are with your diet and physical activities, a sleep-deprived mind and body can never be healthy. Remember that Gustav Graves in Die Another Day didn’t sleep at all and spent his time building his evil empire but he was only able to do it thanks to the advanced Bond movie-style gene therapy. So, unless you plan on building an evil empire such as his, do sleep for about 6–8 hours every day. Games can wait, binge-watching series can wait, let your mind and body relax through the natural sleep cycle. It is essential for a healthy mind and body.

Plan of action is simple; eat healthily and then sweat it out and don’t forget to get a good sleep. These must work in tandem to keep you healthy. For the sake of his family; I hope the person in question wakes up and works to improve his health and ensure he doesn’t fall into the same trap again.

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