Latest update: 19/07/2010
The dangers of sport
HEALTH goes to the Tour de France and meets the cyclists taking part in one of the toughest physical challenges to see how far the body can go naturally. Also, too much sport is would appear is bad for you.
By Eve IRVINE
Sport is good for your health but only when it’s done properly. Repetitive sessions in the gym or pushing your body too far can weaken rather than strengthen your system.
Fitness trainers say people who do the same routine every time they work out are at high risk of strains and inflammations. Many make their injuries worse by continuing to push their bodies harder- when really they need to rest. "Sport is good for your health as long as it's practised reasonably- so it's a question of how many times the same exercise is repeated every day or every week, if it's too often it can be damaging if you do too much because your body can't cope with the strain you're putting on it- the muscles can't, the tendons can't, the joints can't, and even the heart can't. The body can't cope with what you're doing to it" says Doctor Eric Jousselin of the French National Sports Agency.
That's not the only possible danger of over exercising. US researchers have found some young women athletes lose so much weight their periods stop. That means their oestrogen levels fall and without oestrogen their bones can't absorb calcium. Dozens of sporty American teenagers have been diagnosed with osteoporosis- a disease normally found in much older women. They could also increase their risk of heart disease- the heart needs oestrogen to pump blood around the body.
Top level athletes then pay a potentially high price to get their body up to gear. Proper training, rest and diet all play a big part. But one of the world’s toughest physical competition the Tour de France is now almost always associated with drug taking to get the strength and speed needed to win.
According to a former Tour de France doctor, Jean Pierre de Mondenard, the human body can take on the task without anything other than intense training and strict diets. "To climb EVEN ten mountains every day of the Tour de France is easy...the hard part is to following the guy going 2km faster that you...whose going to accept to slip to the back of the pack? Its the competitive side that leads to doping," he says.
Doping may provide the edge to allow the cyclist be the first to cross the line, but finishing the Tour de France at all, Dr Mondenard says, requires above all a lot of metal strength and determination.
Well having taken note of the dangers of over doing it HEALTH turns to a group of grannies in South Africa are taking to the pitch three times a week determined to stay fit and keep their minds of ailments linked to old age and disease. The football team was set up by Beka Ntsanwisi who came up with the idea while she was fighting cancer. While waiting in hospitals for treatment she noticed large numbers of older women with hypertension, arthritis and diabetes and decided that the best way they could all stay fit and healthy was to form a team. At first some of the older women admit they were reluctant but now striker Elisa Shiburi admits that they all love it. "I love playing football especially as it helps me to stay fit and in good physical condition. My knee always used to hurt and it stopped me from sleeping and getting around. Now it's much better," she says. "On the pitch we're able to forget about our everyday problems, like poverty. When we're together it means we can't be off somewhere on our own worrying," adds Grace SHABANGU the Team captain.
The South African grannies have been invited to take part in the Veterans Cup in the US but are currently looking for sponsorship to help them meet the travel expenses.