One of the things I enjoy when I travel outside the country is the opportunity to walk. Of course, I try walking in Lagos but with okada, keke, and cars struggling for the same space on the road and with dirty drainage gutters, it is not safe, especially for the elderly ones.
This time, in Canada, I enjoyed two types of exercises. In Vancouver, I stayed in Downtown, on the 18th floor of a 43-storey building, and my exercise was in a gym with sophisticated equipment. I managed some simple ones, while watching the experts doing the difficult ones. It was frightening watching some ladies and men moving a very high speed on treadmill, and even sweating in an air-conditioned hall.
Later, I went over to Calgary, Alberta, and stayed in a residential area with walkways and playgrounds all over the neighbourhood. This place offered a wonderful opportunity for walking. I was able to compare what may be described as artificial and natural forms of exercises in Vancouver and Calgary, respectively. I concluded that the best exercise for health is the one that human beings are designed to do and not the one that requires machinery or gyms.
Walking outside at a comfortable pace is the best exercise for the body. It has been observed that a brisk half-hour walk every day (or two 15-minute ones) will keep the body fit and the spirits high. Walking increases flexibility and improves digestion, energy and cardiovascular health. It strengthens the bones. It is the ideal activity for everyone.
Strenuous exercise, which is usually aided by machines, is not even ideal for the body. If it were the panacea for good health, then professional athletes would be among the healthiest people in the world. But it has been observed that the majority of them suffer serious chronic injuries and other health problems, and many even die young.
Results of research studies on the immune system of professional athletes have shown that their immune system is weaker than that of the average person. When the body is overworked, immunity is compromised. Pushing the body beyond its natural limits is not a healthful thing to do.
Thomas Jefferson said, “The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all exercises, walking is the best.” Walking helps balance the mind. When you feel anxious or worried, try taking a walk. After a short time, you will find yourself thinking more clearly. If you are depressed, taking a walk will refresh your spirits.
Walking outdoors is far more beneficial than walking indoors because nature has the best circulation. A walk outside in pleasant surroundings, like parks, amid grass and trees, is ideal. Even a walk on a busy city street is better than walking on a treadmill. When you walk, the quality of the air you take in is important. Of course, outdoor air is less polluted than indoor air.
Thinking seriously about exercise, when did the idea of taking exercise start? I believe that exercise became necessary when we started living unnatural and unhealthy lifestyle. Our parents and grandparents never thought about exercises, as long as they went about living their daily lives – going to farms, markets, shops, ceremonies, places of worship, meetings, visiting relations and friends, dancing etc.
When I was young, I went to the stream to fetch water every morning before going to school. I went to the farm, fetched firewood and also attended school and choir practice. I played football and practised dancing with my age grades and so on. I didn’t do any of those for the purpose of exercise; I carried out those activities routinely. I might have been taking about 20,000 steps daily. Today, I work from my house and go out in my car. Recording even 2,000 steps a day is not easy.
Many people are living sedentary lives. Instead of walking, we ride or drive about. As a “big man”, you move from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned office – no fresh air or sunlight. These unnatural ways of daily living have made it necessary to start artificial or modern exercises to compensate for losing our healthy lifestyle.
In Genesis 2:15, God took Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Adam obtained the adequate body exercise he needed and did not need any other exercise. In the same way, depending on your daily activities, you may not need artificial or modern form of exercise.