Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sporty Indian - an Oxymoron ?

In Munich: Its a bright sunny morning. A 40 year old man (no mills and boon like blond-hair-blue-eye type, just a normal man) is riding his bike (read bicycle) from home to work. Its a 20km ride and so he changes from his cycling pants to office clothes on reaching his workplace. He is really busy at work since he is going on vacation soon, for his wedding. He is saying to his friends excitedly ''My life is just beginning, I am so excited'' and he rushes home, again on his bike (remember its a 20km stretch), for a barbeque that he and his fiancee have arranged.

In Chennai: Its a bright sunny morning. A 40 year old man is driving his honda city to work. His office is on the 3rd floor and the elevator is out of order. After climbing 3 flights of stairs, he is puffing, panting and totally out of breath. While he is recuperating with a glass of cold water, he says to his friends ''what to do, I am well past my prime''. After his work day, he goes home, has dinner with his family and settles down on his couch to watch a movie, some cricket and news.

It is true that lifestyles, culture and priorities are different in both these countries. But does that really warrant no health awareness and a total lack of fitness or any related activities once someone gets married and has a kid ? Is being older than 30 an added excuse ?

Why does ''Sports'' still remain something done out of compulsion in schools or colleges ?

Some really disturbing facts:

Obesity has affected more than 10% of the Indian population (and that is 120 million people !)

91% of deaths in India are due to diseases and metabolic disorders, according to WHO.

India's track record in Olympics is well known. No comments.

In Commonwealth games, usually the host country will win a lot of medals mainly because the participants from the country would have trained for months in the venue and will be really used to it as compared to participants from the outside. India will host the commonwealth games in 2010. The venue is still under construction and in the best case, Indian participants will hardly have a couple of months to train in it.

The problem (and the solution ?)

Indian cuisine is one of the world's largest and according to me, the most delicious too. With the variety available, watching what one eats is quite difficult. Agreed.
But does that justify being a couch potato ? A lot of people like to blame the traditions, the ceremonies and various celebrations where certain sweets and savories are considered a must. What they forget is, these were coined by people who probably toiled the whole day in fields or walking to and fro to temples and various places; certainly not for those zipping around in cars and using elevators/escalators all the time. Remember, noone asked you to have bhajji and samosa everyday.

Marriage is a very important part of one's life and can change a person for better or for worse. Agreed.
But does having a spouse justify bloating out of proportion ? Why should getting married imply the end of trying to be fit and attractive ? Infact, that is when one needs the health to rear the family and the attraction to keep the passion in the marriage alive.

Parents say my kids mean the world to me. Agreed
But does that mean you can throw caution to the winds w.r.t your health ? When you can take your kids to swimming, skating, karate, dance classes and what not, how long would it take for you to do something similar while keeping company to your kids? How can parents forget that the longer they stay healthy and fit, the more beneficial it is to their kids ?

On the bright side, it is true that a lot of people have started going for morning walks, yoga classes and are enrolled in a gym....but this is just a beginning and we have a long and arduous way to go to live upto the challenge !

Ancedote: I have to digress a bit and definitely mention the mamis in saris with an ipod and nike shoes (most likely sent to them from their kids living abroad). I saw them early morning in the marina beach, Nageswara rao park (Mylapore) and in Ashok nagar park (yup, managed to go to all these places during my brief stay in Chennai to compensate for the 6 meals I was having everyday !). The mamas on the other hand were much smarter in their striped t-shirts and matching shorts ! What totally cracked me up was the laughter therapy many people are into these days - seeing 10 strict-school-principal-like mamis and mamas standing in a circle, with their hands up in the air and laughing out loud for no apparent reason is simply too much to take. Result: I was laughing like crazy at the end of my jogging session and doing some real laughter therapy :D !

Coming back to the topic in hand: Seeing sports as a career is still not prevalent in India but we have started with tiny steps here as well. Progress can only be made if the middle class attitude of wanting sons and daughters to be engineers, doctors and IT professionals, as a way of coming up in life, is let go of. I understand that it can be difficult for those worried about financial security to take the plunge, this is where the support from the Govt. will be most valuable. But someone has to start somewhere to break this vicious cycle ! And that someone should be from our generation - probably my son or daughter can help me with this in a few years :D!

And finally some simple fitness tips:
  • Any exercise or activity done in the morning on an empty stomach is 3 times effective compared to any other time of the day. Since you break your fast after nearly 10-12 hours, any exercise done will dip into the stored reserves in your body aka fat.
  • Drink lot of water BEFORE you start exercising rather than during. Dehydration will cause you to slow down.
  • Start your routine with 10-15 min of walking or running to warm up, and then stretch to avoid muscles tightening (lots of simple stretching exercise available in youtube). Now when you continue with your regime you will be surprised at how much more your hands and legs cooperate.
  • Take the stairs. Climbing or walking on a road with a higher gradient is twice as effective as just walking.
  • Avoid rice for dinner. Carbohydrates are not friends you invite for dinner :). If you must, cook just a cup of rice, so that even if you are tempted, there is no more rice left to eat.
  • Avoid long gaps between meals. The longer the gap, the ravenous you get => the more you eat, the less you digest => FAT. Have an apple or a banana inbetween meals. If at any time, you are really hungry, your digestive system is not going to be happy with you.
  • Hide the remote. Walking to the TV is exercise too.
  • Do not drive all the time. Walk to nearby places.
Stay healthy, Stay fit and enough with the reading, go out and exercise :) !
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