The Middle Path

By- Dr Unnikrishnan AG, Editor
The Middle Path

Amid all the fighting and killing, one thing was certain: in this war, the Greeks were going to be outnumbered by the Persians. The year was 490 BC, and the world, an internet-free mass of land on which humans scurried from place to place sending messages, very much like the ants still do today. And thus, it came to be that an athletic soldier of Greece called Phidippides was chosen by his leader, to run to Sparta to ask for reinforcements. And he ran. And ran. For 75 miles, and through treacherous mountainous slopes.When he did reach and meet the Spartans, they promised support. But they could not help immediately with reinforcements due to some religious obligations.

And so Phidippides ran back to tell the news, completing 150 miles in less than 2 days and eventually arrived at Marathon (yes, Marathon is a town in Greece, and the site of the famous Battle of Marathon). When Phidippides arrived, he must have been delighted to know of a miraculous result; his Greek army, though vastly outnumbered, had defeated the Persians. But still, Phidippides could not rest after the run. For, he was now assigned the task of running (again!) to Athens to convey the news of the glorious victory. So, he ran again, non-stop, for the 26-mile journey to Athens.

It is said that, after Phidippides reached Athens, he stood up and raised both his hands to shout, “We are victorious!”.

And then, immediately, he collapsed and died.

It is said that everyone has a calling in life, and Phidippides was, perhaps, ordained to bring immortality to the town of Marathon, as well as to a condition, which has been referred to as Phidippides Cardiomyopathy. For, I have not sourced this story from any Ancient Greek Text, but from the Journal of Clinical Cardiology, where authors Trevax and McCullough describe the condition of sudden death in endurance athletes, or even in people after severe exertion, extreme running or stressful sporting activities.

Puneeth Rajkumar, Celebrated Actor

Dave Goldberg, former CEO, SurveyMonkey

Ranjan Das, former CEO, SAP-India

These are just famous names, among the many fitness-focused people who have succumbed to a sudden cardiac arrest.

Can over-exercise and excess athleticism damage the heart and lead to sudden death? Experts claim that this can happen and is said to be due to alterations in the architecture of the heart due to repeated exercise-related strain. The heart muscles, the collagen within the heart and even the electrical wiring of the heart may be affected in over-exercisers. All this can interfere with the pacing as well as energetics of the heart, leading to sudden cardiac death.

On the other hand, there are the under-exercisers who are at higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, cardiovascular problems as well as a host of related diseases. Indeed, today, under-exercisers far outnumber the over-exercisers, and overall, public health experts rightly stress that our populations must be physically active.

It is in this context of the over- versus under-exercisers, that we must follow a Middle Path. In Buddhism, the middle path urges people to avoid excess penance as well as excess pleasure, and to live life in moderation. Current scientific thought is also similar to keep exercise in the so-called Goldilocks Zone, where it is not too little, not too much, but just enough.

There are several ways to stay on the middle path of just enough exercise. Some such methods are measuring your heart rate, an intuitive understanding of one's own health and working with qualified healthcare professionals. And as a tool to measure your exercise-related efforts, technology has come to fore like never before. Today, a range of fitness trackers, which track every aspect of your health and physical activity can guide you as you embark on your road to health. In this issue of Diabetes Health, we guide you through the ever-increasing options available in the universe of fitness trackers.

So that you are on track to a life of health, wellness, and disease-free longevity.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Dr Unnikrishnan AG


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