Physically, our bodies are capable of taking a lot more than our top doctors and scientists seem to indicate. Anti-graft activist Anna Hazare proved it when he fasted for 288 hours. He did lose 7.5kg, but was in fitter physical condition than doctors thought he should have been after putting his body through that ordeal.
Naresh Trehan, who is one of the top cardiac surgeons in the country, and was monitoring Hazare’s health through the fast, made his excellent physical condition in spite of fasting sound very mystical by saying: “His own will, which he describes as brahmachari shakti, and his remarkable control over his body, he has made it.”
Setting an example: Mahatma Gandhi believed that no matter how much work one has, one should always find time to go for a walk. Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images
This statement baffles me.
To me, Hazare sounded more logical than Dr Trehan when he explained why he stayed in such good physical condition. “You don’t become Anna by wearing the Anna topi (cap)... You become Anna by practising my principles.”
It is self-discipline that allowed Hazare to continue with his fast. In the same way, we all need discipline in our lives to achieve our goals. What right do we have to complain about others in the system when we ourselves so royally mess up the one system we have been given in perfect, almost magical, condition—our bodies. Most of us are not honest to our own bodies and corrupt it beyond recognition in less than 20 years of existence. We don’t even need to push our bodies to ensure major changes in our health and productivity levels, we simply need to start moving, a habit we seem to be averse to forming. Only if we are able to change ourselves at a micro level and make ourselves optimally productive will it make sense for us to talk about making a macro change in society.
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When Mahatma Gandhi was in high school, he believed that gymnastics had nothing to do with education. Later, in his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, he confessed that it was a false notion and that physical training should have as much place in the curriculum as mental training. Later, Gandhi believed that no matter the amount of work one has, one should always find some time for exercise, just as one does for one’s meals. He believed that far from taking away from one’s capacity for work, it adds to it. Gandhi had picked up the habit of taking long walks after he had read about the benefits of long walks in the open air. He even claims in his autobiography that it was mainly this habit that kept him practically free from illness throughout his stay in England and gave him a fairly strong body.
While living with his young children in Johannesburg, South Africa, Gandhi used to get them to walk with him daily to the office and back home—a distance of about 8km in all. This gave them and him a fair amount of exercise. He tried to instruct them through conversation during these walks, if there was no one else claiming his attention. To me, Gandhi was way ahead of his times for more reasons than people would suggest.
The American College of Sports Medicine (one of the largest sports medicine and exercise science organizations, based in Indianapolis, US) is only officially now suggesting that for good health, 30-45 minutes of walking or running every day, at a pace where one can converse but only in short sentences, is enough. Gandhi understood this about a century ago. If we, as a society, are looking for a change, we need to be the solution, rather than contribute to the problem at hand. Let’s get moving, now!
Rajat Chauhan is a practitioner of sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and CEO of Back 2 Fitness.
Write to Rajat at email@example.com