Exercise is an integral part of healthy routine, as per Ayurveda. Ayurveda recommends exercise as a means to maintain health and also to treat some diseases. Let us analyse the effects of exercise on health, by means of Ayurvedic concepts.
Exercise and Tridosha
Exercise involves movement of the body. Any movement in the body is influenced by Vata Dosha. So, Exercise is a Vata activity. It increases Vata.
When we do workout, the temperature tends to increase around us. We start sweating. Temperature and sweating are influenced by Pitta. Hence workout increases Pitta.
For this reason, people suffering from Vata and Pitta disorders should avoid exercise, till the time the disease is completely treated. This, we learnt while dealing with Ayurvedic daily routine (in my other website, exclusively meant for learning Ayurveda – learningayurveda.com
Gym and workout helps to burn fat. Fat is related with Kapha. Hence, exercise helps to decrease Kapha dosha.
Importance of warm up in exercise
So far, we have learnt that exercise decreases kapha and increases Vata and Pitta Doshas. When you start exercising, in the initial few minutes, your joints and muscles will be a bit stiff (dominated by Kapha). Warm up routine helps to mobilize kapha and relax your joints and to relieve stiffness. Hence, it is important to warm up before you really get into a full range of workouts.
Exercise during periods in women
Periods is the time, when Vata and Pitta is dominant and hence, if someone does exercise during periods, it further increases Vata and Pitta leading to pain and heavy bleeding. Hence, it makes sense to avoid exercise and strenuous activities during periods.
Best time for exercise
While learning about basic principles of Ayurveda, we learnt that afternoon part of the day is dominated by Pitta and evening is dominated by Vata. If you do exercise in these two periods, you tend to increase both these Doshas, hence you may feel more tired and burnt out. Hence, morning is the best time for workout.
Season and exercise
During summer and rainy season, there is an increase of Vata. Hence during these periods, it is best to resort to mild or moderate forms of exercise.
Whereas, during winter, you can go for full range of workout, to keep Kapha in balance. Remember, coldness of winter, increases kapha. (That is why, you tend to have cold and cough during winter, which again is a Kapha disorder).
I run a jam-packed routine everyday. I absolutely not have even 10 minutes for exercise.
You may not exercise if you think you are perfectly healthy. If you think if you do not exercise, then, the problems of obesity, heart issues, muscle weakness, stress etc can catch up, then here is a plan to sneak out some time.
Out of your daily schedule, there must be some slot which can be compromised. It can be time with your family or time in your office. I understand that if you take away 30 minutes of this time out for exercise, there can be financial loss or family time loss. But that loss could be lesser than your health loss.
Take my case (Dr JV Hebbar). I run a company with many employees. I have a family with four people living with me in my house. Being a doctor and being in online education field, I have to read a lot to update my knowledge. Now, foreign assignments are pouring in so, I may have to travel abroad frequently. With all these, I am pretty much sure that diabetes or some health issue will catch up with me, if I do not exercise.
So, though work is the most important thing in my life, I have cut 1 precious hour of my work and have invested it into exercise.
You will need to compromise some thing or the other. But the rewards which you get out of exercise will always be greater than the loss due to compromise.
Exercise In Morning Or In Evening – Ayurvedic Opinion
Whether to exercise in the morning or in the evening? The simplest answer is – whichever convenient time. But from a scientific Ayurvedic view-point, the matter can be debated to arrive at the right time for exercise.
Traditional Ayurvedic Concept – Most of the Ayurvedic text books explain morning as the best time for gym.
Effect of exercise on Dosha
Exercise helps to calm Kapha, and increase Vata Dosha. Exercise when done in Pitta dominant period (like exercising under afternoon Sun) causes Pitta increase along with Vata increase.
Read related: Benefits of gym and exercise – Ayurvedic explanation
Tridosha in a day –
If we divide a day into three equal parts,
- The first part of the day is dominated by Kapha Dosha (That is why you tend to be calmer during morning hours, and prefer silence.)
- Second Part of the day is dominated by Pitta Dosha (That is why you tend to be aggressive and active during afternoon hours)and
- Third Part of the day is dominated by Vata Dosha. (That is why you tend to be active socially or tend to be more talkative, during evening hours.)
Kapha Dosha dominance refers to strength and stability. So, in the morning, the natural body strength is more and exercise will help to further strengthen the body.
Exercise is an activity that directly increases Vata dosha and naturally, during evening there is Vata dominance, hence exercise in evening will further increase Vata.
Read related: Gym, Exercise, Fitness And Ayurvedic bodybuilding herbal supplements
Example for exercise increasing Vata
Foot pain is a Vata imbalance symptom (at the knees). If you exercise, then foot pain will further worsen. Meaning, exercise is further vitiating already increased Vata.
Hence exercise in the evening may cause more tiredness.
Benefits of exercise in the evening
- Some people may have free time only in evening hours. It is better for them to exercise in evening, than avoiding any physical activity.
- For some people, tiredness caused due to exercise at night may help them sleep better.
- If outdoor games are your choice of physical activity, evening is a better time as the mind will be totally relaxed and there will be lesser time constraint.
Those who are already well-accustomed to exercise during evening hours, then it is better to stick to the same.
If you have both the options, then opt for exercise in morning.
If you are left with no option but evening hours or if you are accustomed, then exercise in evening is a good choice.
Related topic – Exercise Tips To Get Fit Over 40
Benefits Of Gym, Exercise
Benefits of gym and exercise is very well explained in Ancient Ayurvedic text-book – Sushruta Samhita. It is so meaningful and interesting, I can’t resist mentioning the original Sanskrit shloka from the text-book, along with its meaning.
For easy understanding, the terms – weight lifting exercise, workout exercise, weight training exercise, fitness routine, are all covered under the term Vyayama (Exercise).
Hope that this article will encourage all to take up exercises in right quantities, and in right time.
The verses as it is given at the end. Here is the actual meaning of those verses –
Anything that brings about tiredness to the body is called Vyayama (exercise).
After exercise, the whole body should be gently pressed.
Due to exercise, overall body nourishment, lustre, and body curves improve.
It improves digestive power, body stability, lightness, removes laziness, brings about tolerance towards tiredness, thirst, hot or cold weather. Exercise begets health.
There is no other thing as effective as exercise to cure obesity.
An exercised body is feared by his enemies. Such a body will even defy old age.
Exercised and well massaged body keeps diseases at bay, as similar to lion keeps small animals at bay.
Exercised body can digest even half-baked food.
Slightly oily food can be taken by a person doing gym and exercise.
Maximum exercise can be done in Winter and autumn.
Exercise should be done till one’s half strength.
When a person starts feeling as if his breath is coming out of his heart level, it indicates he has reached up to half of his original strength. Then the exercise should be stopped.
Quantity of exercise should be determined by taking the place (warmer places – lesser exercise), time (summer – lesser exercise), diet (soon after food – no exercise) and disease condition into consideration.
If one over exercises, he will suffer from depleted body strength, thirst, tastelessness, giddiness, bleeding disorders (such as nasal bleeding), cough, fever, respiratory disorders etc.
Avoid gym – Those suffering from bleeding disorders, emaciated, suffering from respiratory disorders, soon after eating or having giddiness, should avoid exercise.
Those who indulges in excessive sexual activity, who lift heavy weight, who walk long distances, weakened by excessive physical and mental work, who are suffering from Vata disorder, who are hungry and thirsty should avoid exercise.
Research on exercise
Exercise leads to creation of new neurons (brain cells) in critical areas of brain. This makes the brain more active and enables better memory and concentration. (1)
Effect of exercise on digestion and metabolism
More physical work can increase Agni – digestion and metabolism. When we do more work, our body temperature increases, indicating that the Pitta is increased. Movement is a quality of Vata Dosha. So more body movement means vata dosha also increases. When Pitta along with Vata increases, it leads to improvement of Agni – digestion and metabolism strength.
Master Vagbhata mentions that we should do exercise only till half of our strength. This is indicated by sweating on forehead and thighs. Exercise should be part of our daily routine.
If we over-indulge in exercises – beyond our body’s capacity and without taking nutritious diet, it can lead to severe Vata aggravation, tissue loss and Agni loss.
Side effects of over-exercise
Shrama – tiredness,
Klama – exhaustion
Kshaya – depletion of body tissues
Trushna – excessive thirst
Raktapitta – bleeding disorders – such as nasal bleeding, worsening of menorrhagia in women etc.
Pratamaka – breathing difficulties,
Kasa – cough,
Jwara – fever,
Chardi – vomiting.
शरीर आयास जननं कर्म व्यायामसज्ञितम् ।
shareera aayaasa jananam karma vyayama sajnitam |
तत् कृत्वा तु सुखं देहं विमृद्नीयात् समन्तत: ।।
Tat krutva sukham deham vimrudeeyat samantataha |
शरीरोपचय: कान्तिर्गात्राणां सुविभक्तता ।
Shareeropachayaha kaantir gaatraanaam suvibhaktataa |
दीप्ताग्नित्वं अनालस्यं स्थिरत्वं लाघवं मृजा ॥
Deeptaagnitvam anaalasyam sthiratvam laaghavam mrujaa |
श्रम क्लम पिपासोष्ण शीतादीनां सहिष्णुता ।
Shrama klama pipaasoshna sheetaadeenaam sahishnutaa |
आरोग्यं चापि परमं व्यायामादुपजायते ।।
aarogyam chaapi paramam vyaayaamaadupajaayate ||
न चास्ति सदृशं तेन किंचित् स्थौल्यापकर्षणम् ।
Na chaasti sadrusham tena kinchit sthoulyaapakarshanam |
न च व्यायामिनं मर्त्यमर्दयन्त्यरयो बलात् ।।
Na cha vyaayaaminam martyamardayantyarayu balaat |
न चैनं सहसा आक्रम्य जरा समधिरोहति ।
Na chainam sahasaa aakramya jaraa samadhirohati |
स्थिरीभवति मांसं च व्यायामाभिरतस्य च ।
Sthireebhavati maamsam cha vyaayaamabdiratasya cha |
व्यायामस्विन्नगात्रस्य पद्म्यामुद्वतितस्य च ।
Vyaayaamasvinna gaatrasya pdmyamydvatitasya cha |
व्याधयो नोपसर्पन्ति सिंहं क्षुदमृगा इव ॥
vyaadhayo nopasarpanti simham kshud mrugaa iva |
व्यायामं कुर्वतो नित्यं विरुद्धमपि भोजनम् ।
Vyaayaamam kurvato nityam viruddhamapi bhojanam |
विदग्धं अविदग्धं वा निर्दोषं परिपच्यते ॥
Vidagdham avidagdham vaa nirdosham paripachyate |
व्यायामो हि सदा पथ्यो बलिनां स्निग्धभोजिनाम् ।
vyaayaamo hi sadaa pathyo balinaam snigdha bhojinaam |
स च शीते वसन्ते च तेषां पथ्यतम: स्मृत: ॥
Sa cha sheete vasante cha teshaam pathyatamaha smrutaha ||
सर्वेषु अवृतु अरह: पुम्भिरात्महितैशिभि: ।
sarveshu avrutu arahaha pumbhiratmahitaishibhihi |
बलस्यर्धेन कर्तव्यो व्यायामो हन्यतोऽथवा ॥
Balasyardhena kartavyo vyaayaamo hanyato athavaa||
हृदि स्थानस्थितो वायुर्यदा वक्त्रं प्रपद्यते ।
Hrudi sthaanasthito vaayuryadaa vaktram prapadyate |
व्यायामं कुर्वतो जन्तोस्तद् बलार्धस्य लक्षणम् ॥
Vyaayaamam kuravato jantostad balaardhasya lakshanam |
वयोबल शरीराणि देशकालाशनानि च ।
Vayobala shareeraani deshakaalaashanaani cha |
समीक्ष्य कुर्यात् व्यायामं अन्यथा रोगमाप्नुयात् ॥
sameekshya kuryaat vyaayaamam anyathaa rogamaapnuyaat ||
क्षय तृष्णा अरुचि छर्दि रक्तपित्त भ्रम क्लमा: ।
Kshaya trushnaa aruchi chardi raktapitta bhrama klamaaha |
कासशोषज्वर श्वासा अतिव्यायामसम्भवा: ॥
Kasa shosha jvara shwaasaa ativyaayaama sambhavaaha ||
रक्तपित्तो कृश: शोषी श्वासकासक्षतातुर: ।
raktapitto krushaha shoshee shwaasa kaasa kshataaturaha |
भुक्तवान् स्त्रीषु च क्षीण तृट् भ्रमार्तश्च वर्जयेत् ॥
bhuktavaan streeshu cha ksheena trut bhramaarthascha varjayet ||
Daily workout benefits
Exercise brings about
Laghavam – lightness of the body,
Karma samarthyam – it improves work capacity,
Deepto agni – increases digestion power,
Medasa kshaya – wanes obesity,
Vibhakta ghana gatra – Renders a consistent body structure. Exercise is contra indicated in these people:
Vata Pitta Amayi – People with diseases originating from Vata and Pitta. Exercise can increase body movements and body heat. Thus, they can increase Vata and Pitta Dosha. Hence, exercise is contraindicated when Vata and Pitta are aggravated.
Bala – Children – Only mild exercises and a few Yoga poses are prescribed for children. Because their body parts are tender, heavy exercise may cause damage.
Vriddha – Elders,
Ajeerna – People suffering from indigestion. Usually people with indigestion lack physical strength. In them, exercise can further aggravate Kapha and Vata Dosha.
Effect on Body and Mind
Balanced food, regular exercise and timely sleep form the triad of healthy life. Regular exercise not only makes the body strong but also is good for the mind. It makes one’s mind strong and prepares one to tolerate pain.
Exercise is essential for proper brain functions from birth until one gets old. Not all people tolerate exercise well. If we would take to long distance walking or jogging, playing badminton or cricket occasionally after a long gap, we would experience soreness in our muscles and tiredness. These pains and tiredness takes long time to go away. Sometimes we might have to take some medicines to get rid of these complaints. This shows that regularity in exercise is a must.
Army people, police, athletes and those people who exercise regularly don’t feel the pain of exercise in spite of undergoing rigorous physical activity or training. They don’t feel soreness in their muscles. They are not tired nor do they feel stress. Probably these people are more mentally strong enough to tolerate exercise induced pains or may be exercises create a happy environment in the brain and mind which enables in blocking the pain.
How does exercise make people mentally strong?
Now let us see how exercise helps to build a strong mind.
During exercise, when muscles contract, the blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body increases. This happens along with the release of a neurotransmitter called BDNF i.e. brain derived neurotrophic factor. Along with BDNF, other beneficial chemicals endorphins, dopamine and serotonin are released during exercise. Among these chemicals, endorphins play a major role in reducing the effects of pain and stress.
Endorphins are the neurotransmitters which help to transmit electrical signals within the nervous system. They are secreted by the central nervous system and pituitary gland. They are released in response to prolonged and continuous exercise and during stress. They inhibit the communication of pain and stress to the brain. Therefore people who do regular exercise have good quantity of endorphins and this makes them immune to excessive pain and stress.
Regular exercise increases the blood flow to the brain through increased cardiovascular activity and thus provides essential nutrients such as glucose and oxygen to the brain and rest of the body. It also helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
According to Ayurveda, exercise done in proper quality and quantity provides –
- Lightness of the body
- Capacity to do any work efficiently – this probably explains the role of endorphins on brain functions and mind. It prepares one to do his works with competence without getting tired or without feeling the pain and tiredness of doing it.
- Kindling of digestive activities
- Depletion of excessive fat
- Clearly defined and chiseled out body parts, especially the muscles, the abs for which people work and a good looking body
Exercise also provides tolerance to
- exhaustion derived from physical works,
- fatigue i.e. wear and tear phenomenon occurring in the body,
- heat and cold
At the same time one needs to be sensible and sensitive while doing the exercise. One should not get indulged in excessive exercise or deficit exercise; both are harmful to the body and mind. Exercise should be measured and should be done according to one’s capacity and tolerance.
In this regard Ayurveda tells,
Exercise should be done by taking consideration
- the age factor,
- one’s physical and mental strength and permeability,
- the body type,
- the region in which the person lives,
- the season in which exercise is being done and
- the quality and quantity of food the person is taking
If these are not considered the person may suffer from many diseases.