Discover the Importance of Being Fit

Topic: Discover the Importance of Being Fit

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in his poem The Paradox of our Times, writes ‘[we have] more conveniences, but less time/ More degrees, but less sense/ More knowledge, but less judgment/ More experts, but more problems/ More medicines, but less wellness…’ Truer words were never spoken.

Health today has so many versions, so many adaptations that it is one, difficult to say what is and is not health, and two, almost impossible to justify why or not one way of being healthy is better than the other. In almost thirty years of my existence I have seen perceptions about health change drastically and really, remain exactly the same. Allow me to elucidate. Trends like drinking milk have been thwarted by the notorious fame of lactose intolerance from the ‘80s only to fight back with soy milk and pro-biotic milk concentrates; going to the gym has been around the block a couple of times, constantly vying for attention and competing with running and morning walks; healthy diets have given way to simply popping pills for the necessary nutrients and then come back on the common man’s breakfast table with proof that supplements are bad; and of course, with the variety of body types that we can now recognize, it is no longer just the battle between healthy and un-healthy bodies but more prominently, battle of the body-types instead. No one is going to win but they will keep fighting long enough for everyone to go get their measuring tapes and jot down inscrutable figures to fit somewhere on this fabric of body measurement and feel included.

What I am saying is that the importance of being fit is no longer a uni-dimensional concept. ‘Fitness’ is dynamic and rubbery, in that its constantly changing definitions only change to stretch themselves to the most recent theory on health, which is really a revisit of an old and accepted theory which had become outdated once. It is cyclical and rotational. Ask any good doctor about their own childhood and medicinal habits and they will tell you that they were brought up on the same home-remedies that Himalaya is now selling in green and white packaging. Ask any woman who is now in her 50s about her beauty regime and she will tell you how she used used-up lemon rinds to remove tan, milk and turmeric for fairness and glow and that heavily scented, thick Pond’s cold cream for all of her moisturising needs. Basically, she will tell you the formula for every product that Lotus or Lakmé or the new and improved Pond’s is now advertising. This is not to say that it is a bad thing at all. As times change, people require more assistance to complete even the ritualistic chores of the day and if there is a brand that caters to that need then that should not be criticised under the guise of anti-consumerist backtalk. It is what it is for a reason.

However, a harmful by-product of such all-encompassing marketed health and beauty is that those consumers who are more impressionable and gullible about the subject can be and are taken advantage of. Not only are they given false promises with each purchase, they are also made to remain hooked on to the product nurturing and false hope that it might work. There are fairness products, anti-tan crèmes, hair-fall solutions, hair-type solutions, anti-acne gels and slimming formulae, all aimed at one or the other consumer group, making them believe that what they were born with can be changed through some topical chemical interference. The products may work to an extent, as ‘research’ shows, and they may work on part of the problem, but they are seldom permanent and rarely without consequences. For instance, a breakfast cereal company will only tell you about its health benefits, omitting entirely the extra glucose/fructose intake, the increased energy component because of suggested ingredients like fruits and berries and of course, the gradual risk of obesity if the energy produced is not used up within the few hours following breakfast.

Similarly, the ads for anti-acne products, no matter how believable, will never address the issue that some people are born with oily skin and there is no known method to scientifically change that. Of course, it will prove damming to the company’s sales, but then, it is equally dire for those naïve consumers who think that scrubbing themselves silly or constantly washing away oil and dirt will permanently clear their skin. But the quick-relief promise of tomorrow that this packaging brings with it is enough to keep the dream going and the cash registers clinking. And the paradox of our times, also, is that we have too many ways to be beautiful but very little beauty left.

Moving on to more physiological features of health and fitness, one is almost pleased to note that more and more people seem open to the idea of a general routine healthcare instead of only visiting the doctor in case of illness. This means that people are working toward reducing risks of terminal illnesses and diseases by simply being more in tune with their bodily health. The upshot of this is not a significantly higher life expectancy rate but, ironically, a stable yet still young average life expectancy overall. Reason? While it may be true that people are generally more aware of healthy lifestyles, it is also indirectly proportionate to the levels of bad habits that they have acquired with the progressing generations. Common bad habits like smoking, drinking regularly, indulging in high-carbohydrate foods and aerated drinks (even energy drinks for that matter), irregular meal schedules and sleep cycles, stress from work and social life and other such factors have all accumulated over the years to make every following generation a wee bit less immune to physical ailment. Even modes of entertainment play a role in this deterioration because where before one had to actually pick up a sport equipment to play with it, nowadays one can do so with a mere flick of a key on a remote that is not even connected to any console with wires! Marshall McLuhan must be proud and confused looking at the state of his global village.

Anyhow, such are the taxes we pay for living in the city. And yes, there are still vast differences between lives lived in the city and in a village, which has little pollution or electronic noise to affect mental and physical health. Perhaps this difference is also a vital one, for without it there will be no advancement as no one will ever feel the need to find the cure for an illness that occurs once every few decades. Also, this is a sort of looking forward strategy, because the more we learn to anticipate the various forms of one venereal disease or bacterial formation or even physical damage, the better prepared we will be for prosperity as they head gung-ho into a lifestyle that can only be faster, quicker, more technologically rooted and what can only be described at this point as much more reckless and focused at the same time, if you catch my drift. For now, we can seek solace in the fact that before Revital, there was Chyawanprash and much before there was exercycles, there were bicycles, and thankfully, there always will be.

Karishma Gaur