The question everyone should ask while trying to be fit is whether weight loss is same as fitness. Even though being overweight has been associated with heart diseases, diabetes and certain types of cancer, it is not obvious that anybody who is not overweight is fit! There have been instances where people who are not overweight have suffered from serious heart problems. Also it doesn’t mean that people who are not slim are unfit.
Therefore fitness depends so much on the health condition of one’s heart rather than his or her weight. Over time, it has been proved that the most effective way of maintaining one’s fitness can best be achieved through regular exercise, appropriate nutrition and having enough sleep.
Regular exercise improves blood circulation and helps build the necessary muscles in the body while the right nutrition gives the body the energy it needs and builds up the much needed immunity against diseases. Sleep helps the body to relax, repair the worn-out cells and tissues while helping the mind to relax and remain alert.
Perhaps the question that has baffled many is why our forefathers seemed stronger and tended to live longer. Also, lifestyle diseases were not as prevalent as they are today. Diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer were known as old age diseases up to less than a half century ago. The secret is exercise.
For instance in Africa, there used to be no means of transport other than walking up to the time the white settlers came. Even then, vehicles were for the privileged few until the post-colonial era when some people started using public means of transport. Therefore it goes without saying that our forefathers were great walkers. Maybe that is why experts still recommend walking or jogging as a good work-out because it exercises several parts of the body.
A good example to demonstrate this is the Maasai people of Kenya, who are pastoralists and keep on moving with their animals from one place to another in search of pasture. Though their major diet is red meat which has been pointed out as a major cause of lifestyle diseases, you can hardly find an overweight Maasai or one suffering from the red meat associated diseases. The reason being, they walk over long distances! It can also be observed that most overweight people and high cases of lifestyle diseases in Africa are more prevalent in urban areas, mostly in well to do neighborhoods. This is true for both children and adults.
Picture a situation where a child in a rural setting wakes up early in the morning, runs to the river to fetch water and carries it up-hill, then takes a quick breakfast of porridge and sweet potatoes then runs or walks to school 10km away. At lunch time the child runs back home, for a quick lunch of “githeri”(maize and beans) then runs back to school for afternoon classes. In the evening he walks back home and still helps to run errands for his parents! At the end of the day this child has done more than 40km walking! Does he need to go to the gym?
Another child in the city wakes up in the morning straight to the bathroom then to the breakfast table where he is spoilt for choice between bacon, sausages, eggs, buttered bread and rich sweet tea. He ends up eating several slices of bread, three eggs, four sausages with two cups of sweet tea! Then carries some snack for the ten O’clock tea! He takes the school bus at the gate. At break time he has his snack with a soda. At lunch time he has a menu to choose from. All this time he has only walked from the house to the gate then to class and to the dining room! In the evening he proceeds to catch the school bus home and on arrival, after having a snack, he settles down to play a video game or watch a movie! Are you still wondering why city children are obese?
The same applies to grownups in urban and rural settings. In the city a man drives or commutes to work after taking the same heavy breakfast as the child. He walks a few yards from the car to the lift and while in the office he is seated on his swinging chair till he steps out for a heavy lunch. In the evening he drives back home and after a shower sits down to watch TV! While his counterpart in a rural setting wakes up early in the morning, skips breakfast, walks for 5km, fells a large tree and demolishes it into pieces of firewood then transports all pieces home on his shoulders!
In matters fitness, it all boils down to exercise!