M. Gautham Machaiah
During my growing up days in Coorg, there were precisely two pharmacies in my hometown Madikeri and both of them attracted very few customers—perhaps an indication of the good health of the people then. Today, many summers and winters later, as I walk through the main thoroughfare of the town, I find several medical stores, each of them swarming with people like ants taking to honey.
As I jog my memory, I am convinced that if there is one single reason for the health of my town turning from pink to red, it is the complete lack of physical exercise. This is the story of every other town or city.
As children, all our free time was spent prancing up and down the hills till we ran out of steam; not indoors watching television or playing video games like the current crop. None of us went to gyms, neither did the rich have personal trainers, but a daily walk was an integral part of everybody’s life.
This was more a necessity because in the absence of public transport, children from villages had to hike several miles to reach their schools, their parents had to trudge long distances even to buy provisions, while those who enjoyed the luxury of living in towns made it a routine to go for a long walk everyday. A daily walk not only heals the body, but also unclutters the mind and soothes the soul.
Whenever I am on a holiday in Coorg, I look forward to an eight-km cross-country in the lap of nature, but I find very few youngsters sweating it out these days. The regulars are the ‘oldies’ who hit the road without fail come rain or shine. Not surprisingly, many people who are now in their eighties boast of much better health than those half their age.
Walk is one of the best and most inexpensive forms of exercise, that demands the least number of excuses. When it comes to exercise, procrastination is the name of the game: I cannot go to the gym because I have a knee pain…I cannot do yoga because I have a back ache…I cannot attend aerobics classes because I do not have trendy gear. The list goes on.
But none of these excuses holds good for a daily walk. All one needs are 45 minutes and a decent pair of shoes. If a health condition inhibits you from a brisk walk, make it a habit to go on a leisurely stroll; if nothing, it will clear your mind and eventually cure the body. Nay Sayers may still find excuses. Let them be.
Many also practice walking meditation which in simple terms is being mindful. Here, you are not only aware of each step you take but also keenly observe your surroundings, the trees, flowers, birds, fellow walkers… This practice is as good as meditating within the confines of your house, because it not only exercises the body, but keeps a firm check on the monkey mind which is constantly restless. Even half-an-hour of walking meditation is enough to make your body and mind feel light.
People have various motivations to go for a walk: some to keep fit; some to lose weight; some to exercise their dogs; some to gossip with friends; some to steal flowers from their neighbour’s garden. Whatever your reason, keep walking, for if we do not find time to exercise now, we will soon have to make time to spend at the hospital.