World Health Day – Stay Active, Remain Fit!

Some days back there was a report in the papers on countries with the most undernourished and most obese population, and know what? India was at the top of countries with the most undernourished population, and among the top five countries in the obese category.

With a large chunk of population living under the poverty line, it is understandable that it stands at the top of the table in the undernourished category. What causes equal concern is its position in the obese category too. Cutting across social strata and age groups, obesity brings in its wake hypertension, heart diseases and diabetes among others. But the best thing is that it is a completely avoidable disorder as it is purely the result of faulty lifestyle and poor eating habits. So where did we go wrong?

It is time we paused and pondered about this question as we observed the World Health Day this week.

In earlier days, only the affluent suffered from obesity unless it was a genetic condition. The reason was that our ancestors lived close to nature and so were largely free from serious diseases. For that matter even a couple of generations ago, people were healthier and slimmer.

When I was a kid, cars were a rarity. Even scooters had just begun making their appearance and so cycle was the most common means of transport for both the working as well as the middle classes. Cycling several kilometers every day kept the body trim. In fact, every member of the family had a cycle. Today we can say the same about cars, but without the health benefits of the former.

Appliances were mostly imported and so beyond the reach of common folk. Washing clothes, grinding, cleaning and sundry other chores were done by hand, by the women and sometimes men of the house. It made them fit and agile. Today we run to the gym and undertake expensive slimming programmes to keep trim!

But the most important thing was the food they ate.A healthy daily diet of dal-chawal-roti-subzi ensured that there were few nutritional disorders. Snacks and munchies were homemade and so were sweets and treats. Artificial additives were absent from the food too. Eating out was unheard of except during weddings and other community celebrations when halwais were pressed into service to dish up sumptuous meals.

Children played games – vigorous, boisterous and fun games. They not only helped develop their physical fitness but also had specific health benefits. Kabaddi, for instance taught deep breathing while giving the body the needed physical exercise. Kancha (marbles), and gilli-danda taught eye-hand co-ordination. Kite-flying was an excellent game that taught competition without the tensions of modern day sports. I could go on and on!

Today when I see so many obese children, I feel so sad. They cite studies and lack of time to play games or take part in sports, and yet spend hours online. This not only robs the body of physical exercise, but also harms eyesight and causes mental fatigue, not to speak of, obesity! Doctors say that physical exercise is needed to keep the brain sharp as it gives the body much needed fresh air and oxygen. Little wonder then that even young children are falling prey to diseases like hypertension and diabetes.

The good news is that we can reclaim our health. Keeping in mind this year’s World Health Day’s theme to beat diabetes, a lifestyle disease, let us pledge to simplify our lives. Let us pretend at least for some hours every day that we are back in time and do things our ancestors did – walk, cycle, eat simple home-cooked food, switch off our mobiles and TV, talk to each other and play a game!

Fun bhi, health bhi! How cool is that?

The columnist is your regular granny next door. She loves cooking, feeding friends and family, reading, writing and telling tales. Children’s stories are her favourites. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp and has adapted herself well to the changing times. In fact, you could call her Gadget Granny Seeta.
Stay tuned for her spicy and juicy tales of food and fun.

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