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fit fit-for-life

Fit for Life

sheela_20She’s someone most women would aspire to be – successful, accomplished, intelligent, compassionate, slim, fit, pretty…a woman who lives life on her own terms! Dr. Sheela Nambiar is an OBGYN and fitness guru (she runs her own training program – Training for Life in Ooty and Chennai); she has authored two books ‘Get Size Wise’ and ‘Gain to Lose’ and is currently working on her third book.

Sheela is also actively involved in giving back to society, volunteering at women and children’s organizations.

Read on to be inspired to kick-start your fitness program…

Doctor, fitness guru, author and volunteer…how do you juggle all these?

I think I have been very fortunate to have the excellent support system that I currently have –  at the hospital, at my Fitness Center in Chennai and at all the classes I teach. No one can do everything on one’s own. This is especially true when one wants to do several, diverse things. Building a team is essential. Inspiring that team is even more critical.

Another reason, I think, is simply that I actually love what I do. Then it becomes challenging, rather than stressful. Being fit and working out regularly helps too, immensely! You feel energized and very positive. My passion is Truly Holistic Wellness for Women. That’s something I would like to pursue for women across the board”

You use fitness as preventive care. Can you tell us more?

“Many of the problems, aches and pains, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, constipation, even migraines and depression are called ‘lifestyle diseases’ for a reason. They are created by our lifestyle. Changing one’s lifestyle therefore seems to be the obvious choice for cure and management of the ‘disease’. Exercise and Diet are two aspects of lifestyle that play a critical role in the management of many of these ailments. It seems so simple, but it is true. This was why I made a conscious decision to certify as a Fitness & Lifestyle Consultant so I could actually teach women how to inculcate that change and stick with it. It honestly didn’t seem to work when, as a doctor, I used to advise ‘diet and exercise’ sitting across a table. Most women simply don’t know how to go about it. Having experienced the benefits myself, I believed I had to share it with other women.”

How important is it for women to stay fit? Many women feel it’s okay to put on weight as they age.

“Here’s the thing – fitness and weight are two different things. Sometimes closely related, sometimes not… Yes, It is critically important for women to stay fit. More and more women are choosing to marry later, or not at all, have children later in life, have successful careers, lead very demanding, high-powered lives, making critical decisions for their families and careers. Many women stay home but are really, the fulcrum of their family. All of this requires both physical and mental fitness in my opinion. I know, for instance, that I function better when I have had a good workout that day. I am more alert and productive. Research has also shown this to be true.

As we grow older we do gain weight, more specifically, we gain fat.  There are several reasons some of which are: an easier, lazier, more comfortable lifestyle which requires very little physical activity. We also lose muscle mass (unless training with weights regularly) and thereby lowering the Basal Metabolic Rate causing us to burn less calories (however marginal) even while at rest. This weight gain, more specifically, ‘fat’ gain can be minimized by training regularly with weights from a much younger age. As we age, in order to stay independent, it is important to stay physically fit. The focus therefore needs to be on fitness levels. The weight falls into place.

As for women feeling it’s ok to gain weight as they grow older, well, that is their prerogative. I think each one has to decide what she wants for herself and her body. How she wants it to look is within her control to a large extent. If she is comfortable gaining weight, then who is anyone else to judge as far as appearances go? My only concern for her would be from a health perspective. The aesthetic is completely her choice.”

How does a woman fit fitness into her busy schedule? Could you give us some tips?

“Prioritization and time management are the key. Everyone has 24 hours in a day. I don’t know anyone with more! It’s about deciding how important a fitness routine is for you and then working around that and eliminating ‘time wasters’ through the course of the day. It’s all about trade-offs. You may need to give up an hour of TV or a gossip session at the office. You may need to refuse the fried food at the party, you may need to wake up half an hour earlier or use your lunch hour for a quick workout.

Even 20 minutes twice a day or even once a day is better than nothing. What you do in that 20 minutes needs to be individualized however. As fitness levels increase, it is possible to make do with an intense 20-30-minute workout a day to stay fit. Move around more through the day. Take the stairs instead of the lift, carry your own groceries, get up and walk around or do sit-ups through the commercial break of the TV show you are watching. Walk 10,000 steps a day, every day. Definitely watch less TV! If you have a sedentary job, make it a point to get up and move and stretch every 15 minutes. I don’t think anyone is so very busy that they can’t fit in at least a 30-minute routine into their day!”

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Dogs, books, music…that’s what makes life tick for me. And of course, writing. I’ve been writing for 17 years now and have enjoyed every bit of it. My idea of a great time – blast some music, cuddle my pets and gorge on pizza. Or curl up in a cozy corner with a good book. That’s bliss. And now, I’ve discovered a new bliss – yoga. Maybe, I’ll turn spiritual some day with a halo around my head! On a more serious note, I’m actively involved in animal welfare and saving abandoned dogs. I firmly believe dogs are much better than most human beings. In addition, I champion the cause of making our planet a better place. And do my bit in whatever way I can, and urge everyone to do the same.