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Physical Fitness, Energy and Vitality

by Dr Deepak Acharya(more info)

listed in herbal medicine, originally published in issue 120 - February 2006

Each one of us wants to rule the world. Everybody wants to become healthy and prosperous. Each one of us has a desire to look smart. A fat person wants to become slim or a thin person wishes to gain weight. The question is "where is the time and how to begin?" The real problem is the schedule and lifestyle we pass by in day-to-day life. In this article we aim to provide a few exclusive herbal formulations to regain vitality, physical fitness and energy.

The human body functions with vigour and alertness to meet physical stresses. Physical fitness includes muscular strength, cardio respiratory integrity and general alertness – signs of a healthy body. Jogging, running, swimming, dancing, cycling and brisk walking are necessary to maintain physical strength and vitality. Healthy individuals can plan their own exercise programmes. One can continue exercising until discomfort is experienced, circulation seems inadequate, or fatigue influences performance. People with health problems caused by heart attacks, strokes and illness should consult their physician before doing any sort of exercise.[1]

The Urban Life and Fitness

Urban life is always different from that of rural. Hectic, stressful schedules are almost always partially to blame for the extra weight gain. Working professionals, students and housewives have so many reasons to explain why they are not able to exercise or why they don't find time to visit a gym multiple times each week? According to Deepti Mehta, 23 year-old software professional, "I have a very hectic lifestyle and I cannot really afford time to go for a walk, therefore, I have my own gymnasium and I do regular exercises". Shetal Vora, 32 year-old interior designer, emphasizes more on joining any physical fitness centre. "Once you join a health club and make it a habit, you do not skip exercise," says Shetal. She adds, "Your physical fitness trainer should be well-versed and helpful, if you are to achieve great fitness soon". Jitendra Prajapati, a 21 year-old college student first joined physical fitness training camp in the summer but has now joined a fitness club permanently. He admits, "Exercise and physical fitness is highly important these days. It not only improves your look but it enhances your confidence too". Amit Shah, a job professional aged 37 from Ahmedabad, reduced his weight by three kilos in two months and is really excited with the results he is seeing. On the other hand, Sudarshan Rao, 24 year-old working professional who was considered underweight started gaining weight. Some exercises, a regular diet and few herbal formulations have him looking great now.

"I do not recommend synthetic and chemical health boosters to my customers. Regular exercise, a balanced diet and herbal supplements are in my menu card", says physical trainer (and co-author) Manish Pandya. Remaining physically fit is a challenge in the current junk food era. One has to avoid oily and buttery stuff. Natasha Singh, 21 year-old college student was fond of fast food and all of sudden started gaining weight. Now she is really serious to regain her physical fitness and has joined a fitness group.

Awareness of physical fitness among urban youth is appreciable. There is a need to give them proper direction. They must know the good and bad about health. Proper food supplement intake and regular exercises are the only way for urban people living a hectic lifestyle.

Diet an Important Factor

Proteins

Proteins found in foods such as eggs, milk, meat, fish and poultry, are considered complete proteins for containing all of the important amino acids, whereas amino acids found in vegetables, grains, and beans, lack one or more of the essential amino acids. The plant-derived proteins can be combined to provide all of the essential amino acids. So when eaten together, these foods provide a complete source of protein. Non-vegetarian people can meet their protein needs with diets rich in grains, dried peas and beans, rice, nuts and soybean products, etc. An average-sized man should eat 57 grams of protein daily.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

People love to have creamy food-stuff in their regular diet, but they do not know how harmful fat is for their health. Directly or indirectly, we involve fat and cholesterol in our daily life. If we don't have any cholesterol in our diet there won't be any problem as the liver, and to a lesser extent the small intestines, manufacture all the cholesterol we require. Saturated fatty acids found in foods should make up no more than ten percent of a person's total calorie intake each day.

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals are found in a wide range of foods, but some foods are better sources of specific vitamins and minerals than others. For example, oranges contain large amounts of vitamin C and folic acid, but very little of the other vitamins. Milk contains large amounts of calcium but no vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin A, but white potatoes contain almost none of this vitamin. Because of these differences in vitamin and mineral content, it is wise to eat a wide variety of foods.[2] It is, therefore, advised to take a wide range of food to maintain physical fitness, vigour and vitality.

Recommended diet

• Vegetables, especially dark-green leafy and deep-yellow vegetables, such as spinach or carrots;
• Fruits, such as melons, berries and citrus ones, or juices, such as oranges or grapefruits;
• Meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dried beans (for example, navy, kidney or black), especially products low in fat, such as lean meat and poultry prepared without skin;
• Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, especially low-fat or fat-free dairy products;
• Grains, especially whole grains, and legumes, such as lima beans or green peas.

An Experience among the Tribes

While staying in Central India, co-author Deepak Acharya used to visit Patalkot Valley quite often. Patalkot is a deep valley surrounded by hills in the heart of the Satpura hills of Madhya Pradesh in India. The Gond and Bharia tribes in this valley have been practising a traditional medicine system for curing hundreds of common and uncommon health disorders. They are dependent upon herbs for medication and health fitness. Acharya noticed tribes walking long distances around the hills so frequently that one cannot even imagine. They had to walk across the hills to reach from one village to other but they never looked tired. They grow natural herbs and vegetables, i.e. maize (Zea mays), jowar (Sorgham vulgare), udad (Phaseolus mungo), kutki (Picorrhiza kurrova), wheat (Triticum aestivum), etc. They cook herbs which have medicinal properties. Grain powder of maize (Zea mays), jowar (Sorghum vulgare), bajra (Pennisetum glaucum), kodo (Paspalum scrobiculatum), chana (Cicer arietinum), kulthi (Dolichos biflorus), etc., are prepared in the home itself. They mix all the powders and prepare roti (chapati). They cook bhaat everyday with heir meals. They also cook or take rice (Oryza sativa), kodo, kulthi, bhadli (Panicum pilosum). They consume a variety of dietary stuff to stay healthy and active and live longer.

Why don't people living in urban areas stay healthy like these tribal people? Why can't we be so alive and active? Why do we feel exhausted after a little exertion? Climatic conditions, pollution and an hectic life routine may be an answer to this, but is not a satisfying explanation. It all depends on one's life style and work schedule.

Traditional Practices of the Tribes

Co-authors Acharya and Sancheti documented a few important indigenous practices of the tribes of Central and Western India. If followed in a systematic way, these practices will certainly help readers improve their health and lifestyle.

For reducing weight

• Mint (Mentha arvensis) is a very beneficial culinary herb for losing weight. Chutney of green mint with some simple spices can be taken with meals. Mint tea also helps. Spices like dry ginger (Zingiber officinale), cinnamon (Cinnamomun zeylanicum), black pepper (Piper nigrum), etc., are good for reducing weight. Regular intake of carrot (Daucus carota) works well with body weight reduction. Vegetables like bitter gourd (Momordica charantia)and drumstick (Moringa oliefera) are useful in losing weight;
• Honey is an excellent home remedy for obesity. One should start with a small quantity of about 10 grams or a tablespoon, taken with hot water early in the morning. A teaspoon of fresh lemon (Citrus limon) juice may also be added;
• Fasting on honey and lime-juice is highly beneficial in the treatment of obesity without the loss of energy and appetite. Take this formulation several times a day at regular intervals. Raw or cooked cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) inhibits the conversion of sugar and other carbohydrates into fat. Hence, it is of great value in weight reduction. The gum of guggul (Commiphora mukul) is a good choice for the treatment of obesity;
• Hariom Bharti, a bhumka (local healer) in Patalkot suggests the following formulation for obesity: Powder of chebulic myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruits (11/2 tbsp), belliric myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica) fruits (11/2 tbsp), Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis) fruits (one tbsp), three-leaf caper (Crataeva nurvula) bark (21/2 tbsp), Mexican sandbur (Tribulus terrestris) fruits (21/2 tbsp) and ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome (one tbsp) is prepared and mixed. One teaspoon is taken twice a day. It is very effective.

For gaining weight

If you are underweight and want to gain weight to look fit and fine, here are a few herbal practices:
• Eat banana (Musa paradisiaca) with curd or milk. Taken thrice a day it helps you gain weight. Date palm fruits (Phoenix sylvestris), wild anjeer (Ficus hispida). Almondette (Buchanania lanjan) boiled in milk is quite nourishing for those who are underweight;
• White muesli (Chlorophytum borivilianum) root powder, Indian ginseng (Withania somnifera) root powder and pomegranate (Punica granatum) seed powder mixed together and taken thrice a day tones your body and helps in gaining weight.

For remaining vital and energetic

If your body type is average and you maintain a good physique, it is important for you to remain like this forever. Tribes in Patalkot and Western India prepare drugs in the following formulation. According to a local healer, Chaitram Bharti from Patalkot, Madhya Pradesh, these formulations are effective only when taken without any irregularities. He prescribes three basic formulations for better health and toning the body:

• Powder of ginger (Zinziber officinale) root (one tbsp), long pepper (Piper longum) fruits (one tbsp), Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis) fruits (three tbsp), chebulic myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruits (11/2 tbsp), gulancha (Tinospora cordifolia) stem (11/2 tbsp), senna (Cassia senna) leaves (one tbsp) and mint (Mentha piperita) leaves (one tbsp);
• Powder of asparagus (Asparagus racemosus) roots (two tbsp), Indian ginseng (Withania somnifera) roots (two tbsp), Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis) fruits (11/2 tbsp), Black catnip (Phyllanthus niruri) leaves (one tbsp), wild indigo (Tephrosia purpurea) leaves (once tbsp), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) roots (11/2 tbsp), Mexican sandbur (Tribulus terrestris) roots (11/2 tbsp), Indian spider plant (Chlorophytum arundinaceum) roots (11/2 tbsp) and spinach (Spinacea oleracea) leaves (one tbsp);
• Powder of Asparagus racemosus roots (one tbsp), Withania somnifera roots (two tbsp), Glycyrrhiza glabra roots (one tbsp), Emblica officinalis fruits (11/2 tbsp), Tribulus terrestris roots (one tbsp), Vidarikand (Pueraria tuberose) roots (one tbsp), Indian pennywort (Centella asiatica) leaves (one tbsp), arjun (Terminalia arjuna) bark (11/2 tbsp). About one tablespoon powder should be given to the patient twice a day after lunch and dinner with water.

Concluding Remarks

If you have not been active, start doing exercises slowly. Choose something that fits into your daily life. Select an activity you like, or try a new one. Activities such as dancing, swimming, or biking can be fun. Ask a friend to exercise with you, or join a group. Make time in your day for physical activity. If the weather is bad, try an exercise show on TV, watch an exercise tape, walk in the mall, or work around the house. Control your eating habits, do regular exercise, and start avoiding the causes of weight gain. It will certainly help you to achieve what you really want to 'Rule the World'.

Acknowledgement

Author Acharya wants to acknowledge bhumkas of Patalkot (Chaitram Bharti, Tekchand Bharti, Radheshyam Bhalavi, Hariom Bharti and all the tribes of the valley who shared their valuable information and provided support during my research. We are grateful to VYAYAM health club members for their valuable feedback.

References

1. Ulrich C. Physical Fitness. Microsoft.® Encarta.®) Online Encyclopedia. 2005.
2. Worthington-Roberts B. Human Nutrition. Microsoft.® Encarta.® Online Encyclopaedia. 2005.

About the Authors

Dr Deepak Acharya is a botanist who worked among the tribes of Central India. He is currently involved in Herbal Research. He has written 30 research papers and more than 125 popular articles in various scientific journals, magazines and newspapers. You can visit his website http://dracharya.tripod.com or contact him via deep_acharya@rediffmail.com.
Garima Sancheti is a research scholar, working in the field of Radiation and Cancer Biology at the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India. She has to her credit various research papers in scientific journals as well as articles on the web. She can be contacted via garimasancheti@rediffmail.com.
Manish Pandya is a physical trainer and CEO of VYAYAM, the fitness club in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. He is a Food and Nutrition expert who has been in this field for the past eight years. He can be contacted via fitvyayam@yahoo.co.in

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About Dr Deepak Acharya

Dr Deepak Acharya is a microbiologist turned ethnobotanist. He is the Director of Abhumka Herbal Pvt Ltd (www.abhumka.com) in Ahmedabad, India. He has been documenting ethnobotanical knowledge of tribals of Central and Western India for past many years. He has written more than 35 research papers in National and International journals of repute. He writes popular articles for web and magazines too. His company validates herbal practices of healers from two remote pockets in India. He has done extensive documentation of Bhumkas of Patalkot valley (www.patalkot.com ) and Bhagats of Dang district (www.thedangs.in) South Gujarat and prepared a digital traditional herbal knowledge library. His book entitled "Indigenous Herbal Medicines: Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices" is being appreciated all over the world. He has been associated with many Universities and colleges as a Member, Board of Studies. His work and dedication for the tribal welfare has been well appreciated by several print media. He is a Feature Writer/ Member- Editorial Board and Reviewer for many scientific journals and magazines. He can be contacted via email at info@patalkot.com   info@abhumka.com. For more information about him, log on to www.patalkot.com .

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