Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fitness & Health

How to be healthy? Any sports enthusiast will tell you to exercise. Not just any exercise, but those rigorous, heart-pumping cardio. Recently, in a Malaysian Internet forum, a guy dismissed walking as “useless”.

In the West, some fitness experts pointed out that yoga is ineffective for weight loss, since it doesn’t burn as much calorie as running or spinning. But they are unable to explain why long term yoga practitioners tend to have lean figures.

Which makes me wonder: Does fitness equal health?

Okinawa in Japan has some of the longest living people in the world. Scholars attribute the long life expectancy of the Okinawans to their diet and active style. However, I doubt many of them still do karate fighting at the age of 80.

Hong Kong is another place with very high life expectancy, and scholars attribute it to the fact that Hongkongest walk a lot. Unlike Malaysians and Americans who are terribly car-dependent, Hong Kong people often ride train (MTR). However, walking to and fro the MTR station is not cardio exercise. Taichi is popular in this Southern Chinese city, but again it is not a cardio exercise. (Taichi does have some “fast forms”, which are rigorous, but they are not commonly practiced.)

Fitness is essentially a Western concept. There is no Chinese translation for the English word ‘fit’.

Fitness is external; health is internal. Fitness is generally associated with physical exercise, such as running, swimming and weight lifting; health is related to many more factors, such as diet, nutrition, therapy and mental wellness.

American researchers recently compared data from two studies of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. Their findings could surprise many of us. Results showed:

The risk for first-time hypertension was reduced 4.2% by running and 7.2% by walking.
The risk for first-time high cholesterol was reduced 4.3% by running and 7% by walking.
The risk for first-time diabetes was lowered 12.1% by running and 12.3% by walking.
The risk for coronary heart disease was lowered 4.5% by running and 9.3% by walking.

So, would you say “walking is useless”?


  1. This is a good post as I have been debating with others on slimming down methods. I just got back from China and hardly saw fatties there this trip in Shanghai. I think they walk too much each day and that is good. Like you say, we are too dependent on cars! We should vote the govt out so that we have better public transport system! By then we will have more slim guys around.

    I believe that yoga helps to break internal fats laced in tummies and organs through the twisting! I am not kidding.

  2. health is wealth..stay healthy so that we don't need to spend on doc's fees. Walking is good too if we don't hv the time to jog.

  3. No, I don't think fitness equals health. You can be fit but you may not be healthy. From what I learnt last time, exercise only contributes 20% to overall health, the other 20% comes from mental health and 60% from diet. So if you are fit but your diet is poor or unhealthy, then you are considered unhealthy.

  4. Not sure if running is useless or not, but I'm sure it's better than sitting down and not exercise the whole day! But running too much like in a marathon may be bad for health and may weaken the heart and cause problem to joints.

  5. I think tai chi, and yoga do have their health benefits as a lot of people will attest to this. Maybe it's good to combine all kind of activities from walking to jogging to tai chi and yoga and not forgetting weight lifting too. But they are still 20% of the equation. You need to be happy and have the right mental attitude, not overly stressed, and enough sleep too! And of course a good diet is the most important : )

  6. That's a surprise finding about running vs walking. Personally I think walking is always good as it's what humans do since the ancient times. Running is good also as we used to hunt wild animals in the ancient times and need to run very fast. But, the running part is only for a short while, not running for 30 minutes or 1 hour straight like what most people do nowadays.

  7. @foongpc
    A mistake: the guy said "walking is useless".

  8. Oh walking is useless? Useless as in losing weight or build fitness? I think it will be difficult to lose weight just by walking unless you walk a lot and control your diet! Haha. I won't say it's useless cos walking is still beneficial to health. And it does help to lower blood sugar in diabetics : )

  9. So walking is better than running?

  10. Good sharing here, KS. Thanks.

    Are we talking about brisk walking? Any exercise that gets the cardio-vascular system working has got to be good, I believe. And that includes aerobics involving both low and high impact exercises.

    Running is better than jogging I read as the fluidity of movements in running does less damage to internal organs. While we are at it, taking the staircase going up is better for the ankles than walking down, better to take the elevator going down. You make want to observe the comfort level of your ankles going up and down stairs the next time.

    Stretching exercises make the body limber and also improves breathing and blood flow.

    Qigong and taichi clear pathways for better health, mental health included.

    Of course, all exercises will go to nought if one binges on unhealthy food all the time.

    My two cents.

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