Keep fit for life | Sunday Observer

Keep fit for life

29 August, 2021

‘All I can give you is the opportunity, the impulse, the key’ - Hermann Hesse

Whether you are young or old, you have the right to be fit. Also, you have a right to good health and a long life. But when you come down to it, only you can make the changes that will bring you the benefits. You may have tried and failed with many exercise routines, but this time you are going to succeed; you are going to be a winner.

To be a winner you have to accept certain responsibilities. You are responsible for your heart, pulse, blood pressure, lungs, body-fat and cholesterol level. But with a little help you will be able to overcome inertia and to motivate yourself to be fit – not for a day, week, month or year, but for life. As a motivational writer, I can give you the opportunity, the impulse and the key. The rest is up to you.

Although fitness has become a fad, it is simply a way of life. Physical fitness is necessary to reverse much of the deterioration associated with ageing. Today most people have realised that their medical fate lies more in their own hands than in their physicians’ hands. In simple terms, fitness is the ability of your body to operate at optimal capacity as long as you live. For this, people adopt various methods.


Going to the gym and spending hours on workouts is one way of achieving fitness. However, all of us cannot go to the gym for obvious reasons. Even to do a workout, you should have a strong, healthy body. If you are a child or an old person, gym is not the right place to go. Medical experts say you can remain fit without going to the gym. Like the gym, jogging too has caught up with some people who wish to maintain their fitness. The ultimate purpose of most such exercises is to take 20 to 30 minutes a day of heavy breathing. That can be achieved while your limbs move rhythmically through air or water. 

The health benefits of exercise have been recognised for centuries. An Indian physician used exercises to treat diabetes as early as 600 B.C. Today physicians recommend exercise to help prevent and treat heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, respiratory and circulatory disorders, breast cancer and even obesity.

When you exercise the heart begins to pump out more blood. The process will enable you to meet the demands of strenuous activity with fever beats. Any type of exercise is better than none. The best type of exercise is vigorous, regular aerobic exercises such as fitness walking. When you walk briskly, the large muscle groups in your legs and arms begin to move in a steady rhythmic pattern. The muscles need oxygen so you need to breathe more deeply to take it in and your heart needs to pump faster to deliver it. Regular exercise also reduces your cholesterol levels. It induces an increase in the protective HDL cholesterol which acts as an arterial cleanser. 

Big business 

In order to exercise your body, do you need to engage in sport? In an age where fitness has become a big business, you are always tempted to join swimming clubs, gyms, cycling tours or aerobics. However, Donna Seymour of the Health Education Authority’s “Look after your heart” programme has said, “We should get away from the idea that fitness equals sport. Fitness equals activity.” That means you need not necessarily take part in vigorous sport activities to remain fit.

Les Snowdon and Maggie Humphreys in “Fitness walking” recommend fitness walking four times a week for 30 minutes at a time at a moderately brisk rate. It will build cardiovascular and respiratory fitness and provide all the fitness benefits normally associated with “no pain, no gain” formula. Other exercises have certain drawbacks. For swimming to be effective as a cardiovascular exercise, it is necessary to swim for 30 minutes three times a week. However, most people do not find the time do so. Cycling is a good form of exercise but it can be dangerous at times. Rowing is also a popular exercise but it is not practical for everyone to take part in it. 

Walking and running are known to be exercises against gravity. When you walk or run it will increase the calcium content of your bones, warding off osteoporosis and debilitating fractures in later life. However, since 1984, an increasing number of people of all ages in the United States has stopped jogging. Instead, they have discovered that fitness walking is a much more realistic approach to lifelong health and fitness.

Household chores 

In Sri Lanka, few women living in the city do exercises. They have higher rates of breast and reproductive system cancers. However, women living in villages walk long distances, do all kinds of household chores manually and remain fit. They have few health issues. An average village woman draws water from the well, splits firewood, wash clothes by hand, grind rice and other cereals using a mortar and a pestle. There are no washing machines, grinders and microwave ovens in village homes.

If you are anxious to remain healthy, the best form of exercise is walking. Even Hippocrates said, “Walking is the best medicine.” He offered this advice to his patients more than 2000 years ago. Since then, people have discovered the physical and psychological benefits of walking. 

Most elderly people develop back pain. They apply all kinds of balms and oils to alleviate the pain. Fitness walking can provide relief for many people suffering from back pain. When you walk regularly, it will promote muscular development and increase blood circulation. Walking will also speed up the release of endorphins which provide a natural “high.” Walking lacks the jarring impact associated with many other forms of exercises.

Funeral processions 

I have heard a story involving two friends. One man – let’s call him Carlo – took regular exercises to remain fit. The other – let’s call him Bonny – never did any exercises. After some time, Carlo fell seriously ill. When Bonny went to see him, Carlo asked, “How do you manage to remain fit without doing any exercises?” Bonny said, “I get exercise walking in funeral processions of my friends who did regular exercises.” Even here the importance of walking is stressed.

As for me, I never did any other exercise except walking. The village school I attended had no facilities for cricket or volleyball. As a child, I used to walk nearly two kilometers up and down to my school. As a teenager, I went on walking expeditions with a group of my friends. We had no money to buy bicycles or to travel by bus. The walking gave us many benefits. Some of my friends are still walking briskly although they are in their 80s. 

For a writer, walking is a meditation that will relax his/her mind and generate creative ideas. If possible, keep a personal walking diary to jot down events that occur on the way. As Cicero said, “Only the man who can relax is able to create, and ideas reach his mind like lightning.”

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