Medically approved health tips to improve an athlete’s physical fitness | Health

National Sports Day is observed every year in India on August 29th to commemorate the birth anniversary of hockey legend, Major Dhyan Chand and is dedicated to India’s sports heroes and champions, honouring their contribution and dedication towards bringing laurels to the country. As we extend the celebrations this week with the aim to raise awareness about the values of sports: discipline, perseverance, sportsman spirit, teamwork and encourage public at large to take up sports and make it an integral part of their lives while emphasizing on the importance of being fit and healthy, we got a few experts on board to reveal some medically approved health tips to improve an athlete’s physical fitness.

Sports activities, as beneficial they are for our health in general, can sometimes be a cause of visible or underlying injury that may need immediate medical attention. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Aashish Contractor, Consultant at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre in the Centre for Rehabilitation Medicine and Sports Medicine, shared, “There isn’t an optimal time to exercise or undertake sports activities, in terms of time of day, meaning you could exercise in the morning, afternoon or evening, with similar benefits. What is important is the timing of activity in relation to adequate sleep and nutrition.”

He advised, “An athlete needs to have an individualised plan to improve fitness as relates to his or her specific sport. For general fitness, one should remain physically active every day and do structured exercise, at least 3 days a week for 30-60 minutes, which could be as simple as a brisk walk.” Physical fitness comprises of a set of components that include endurance/flexibility, muscular strength, cardio-respiratory endurance and body composition and to improve the physical fitness, mainly in athletes, includes many things like workouts, nutrition and hydration.

Asserting that physical fitness defines a state of body health and wellbeing, which allows to perform sports-specific training or in daily activities or occupation, Dr Priyanka Shastri, Consultant Physiotherapist at Masina Hospital in Mumbai, suggested:

1. Workouts can be varied according to game or sports specific. These workouts will ultimately help in improving muscle strength, response time and mental fitness which is essentially needed on ground. Functional exercises can also be included in training or workouts since the primary aim of these exercises is to train specific set of muscles. To make sure there is no building up of plateau, the performed sets of exercises should be changed regularly.

2. Hydration is an essential aspect of athletic performance. Staying hydrated needs to be a priority. Our body temperature increases while exercising and produces heat. As the sweating occurs body starts to cool leading to loss of fluids. One can lose up to 0.5-1lts of fluids during intense exercise routine, so it is advisable to have 1 – 1.5lts of water per hour during workout or physical training.

3. There should be adequate recovery time since after intense training muscles need time to heal. Body needs to replenish the energy storage. Warm up and cool down exercise adds to the recovery phase like stretching, soft tissue massage which improves athletic performance. Massage too helps to realign muscle tissue, reduce inflammation and tightness and thus aids in proper circulation. Self-massage in form of foam rollers are cheap and easy way to get recovery.

4. Eating right food is one of the most important part of improving athletic performance. Simple carbohydrates and simple sugars are to be avoided and one should try to make a switch to healthier alternatives like complex carbohydrates (whole wheat foods, wholesome vegetables). Generally, 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is sufficient. Proteins is also one of the most important aspects for muscle growth and to repair body tissues but only after carbohydrates reserves have been used up, proteins can be used by the body for energy productions.