Extended version of my Run&Bee Hindustan Times column: Week 48 / 4.5.2019: It’s never too late to look at being fitter and healthier http://tinyurl.com/yyya743n

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Four weeks ago, on World Health Day, along with Hindustan Times, as an extension of this series, we had organised a running workshop in Gurgaon. Surg. Capt. (Dr) Dr J.S. Nagra (retd) VSM, my MBBS college dean, and his wife, Veri Nagra, were invited to be chief guests.

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It took me back to those days under his mentorship, when I decided to foray into the field of Sports Medicine, a nascent field in the 1990s as Dr. Nagra put it in his reminiscences. He made his point by stating how medical doctors would not consider this as a career option, if they had no other choice, because it was not a lucrative clinical practice. He reminded me that I was an exception, and how it was my dream and passion to pursue Sports Medicine. And so I did.

It was in 2004 when a 95 year old, or should I say ‘young’, gentleman walked in to my clinic in London. He told me that he had no pain and wanted to pick up strength training to get even fitter.

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That same year, Fauja Singh, a 93 year old Sikh, was featured on Adidas’ advertisement campaigns all across London. The hoardings bragged about his finish times for full marathon (42 kms): ‘6:54 at age 89; 5:40 at age 92. The Kenyans had better watch out for him when he hits 100.’

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So far the focus in Sports Medicine and Science fraternity, and for me had been on elite sportspeople to help them perform optimally and win medals at the highest level. I took both of these above mentioned incidents in the same year to be a sign from above for me to do something about extending this practice to people who wanted to pick up physical activity, at whatever age they were. It was time to make a grass-root change, both in UK and in India, and that is what I did on my return from the UK.

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I realized after a week of my meeting with Dr. Nagra, how true his words rang. Afterall, he did tell me that he was considering running since he participated in my workshop where the realization had set that it was safe and had health benefits. The change in perception from running being difficult and injury riddled, to being do-able at tender age of 74 and 69 years respectively, further motivated them to include running into their schedule. Little did I realize that my learnings from the path I had taken courtesy my mentor, would one day influence him directly too. Life had come full circle.

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Dr. & Mrs. Nagra have always been fitness enthusiasts. They further stated, “Now that we are retired we have more time to take care of ourselves. We walk everyday for an hour at least, do yoga, some weights, and swim during the summers.” Most times they even walk to the grocery stores, malls, banks, movies, restaurants etc!

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Even in the most stressful times, while he was serving as the Director of Health Services, in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, where his schedule did not allow structured exercises, he would always be active, walk and meet people, and take rounds of the facilities. This not only afforded him the physical benefits of exercise, but also enabled him to deal with his stress better. He was able to think and anticipate problems, distil thoughts so that he was better prepared for an event, albeit a crisis.

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The advantages of their active way of life has been that they have seen it as an investments for the years ahead and have managed to ward off the usual lifestyle diseases.

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Talking about the medical fraternity, Dr. Nagra reinforced doctors to be proactive role models who themselves took time out to exercise and who in turn could motivate their patients to follow an active lifestyle. And he does walk the talk, in all respects.

Below is the print copy. 

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I simply love this artwork on Fauja Singh, so it had to be here.  

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