You have to love Bajans. We are a special group of persons understood best by ourselves. It has been said that we run from the rain but run to watch a fire; we knock the spoons on the sides of our pots.
Actually, an acquaintance of mine said he was in a bar in Germany a few years ago and he heard a familiar rhythmic clinking of ice cubes against a glass and thought to himself, ‘that has to be a Bajan’. He wove his way through the group and, lo-and-behold, he found a Bajan nursing a cold drink and making music with the ice.
One of the things that Bajans always say is that doctors make the worst patients and don’t set a good example. Their reasoning is that doctors are overweight and obese and they seem to drink and smoke in excess. In the defence of my colleagues who may fall into one of these categories, these conditions are not unique to us and can be seen in all walks of life. In addition, there is, I believe, a significant proportion of doctors who do the right thing with respect to adequate exercise and healthy eating.
I was not a part of that group previously. And it was not for lack of knowledge as the media is full of all the reasons why we should exercise and eat properly. I had discussed this in a previous article but I will mention a few of the benefits of healthy living.
Exercise reduces the risk of development of chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer; it improves your mood and allows you to peacefully coexist with that annoying colleague in the next cubicle; it improves your libido; it improves your energy levels; it improves sleep quality and your ability to relax; it assists with weight loss. This list is but a drop in the bucket of the benefits of exercise.
So what is it that causes us not do what we know we should do? I thought about myself and all the reasons why I could not exercise. Perhaps you can identify with my top five logical reasons for not exercising.
1) I cannot afford to exercise. Debunking that excuse, the more appropriate wording should have been – I cannot afford to join a gym at this point in time. Even so, when I last checked, walking and jogging on our streets and in parks was absolutely free.
2) I do not have the time. Wrong! As long as you are alive and in reasonably good health, you have the time to exercise. What happens is that we do not make the time to exercise. Either we refuse to get up early enough or we pack our day to the brim with the illusion of busyness that there is not even time to breathe, far less exercise.
3) I will start on Monday. And surely enough Monday comes and so do the other days of the week and still no exercise happens. Whilst there must be some planning put into adopting a healthy lifestyle, there must be a committed start date.
4) I cannot get this done. There is a group of persons called perfectionists who find it hard to do anything once it is not done perfectly. Starting an exercise programme will be far from perfect especially if one has not engaged in physical activity for eons. I found that I had to do the modified low impact moves on the exercise videos and this was a humbling experience for me. It just showed me how unfit I had become. However, it is not about sitting and bemoaning one’s current unfit state. Rather, present unfitness should be an impetus to strive to future fitness.
5) I do not need any help. There are some persons who are highly self-motivated and once they have decided to do something they get it done. At the slightest sign of pain, others like me need to take a break, and sometimes the break is longer than the workout. We need external motivation. Motivation from the outside, no matter how empowering, cannot help an individual who has not committed to making a change. However, for the one who is willing to work and needs a little assistance, there is room for an external motivator. This can come in the form of a workout buddy, working towards a new dress or pants size, a financial bet if certain workout goals are not met or whatever (legal) mechanism that gets and keeps you going.
As a nation we are also involved in belt-tightening measures. We have heard the grim news about our financial status as a country and so difficult processes need to be put in place to turn the ship around. Will this be a painful process? It most certainly will. We have become accustomed to a certain level of financial freedom and fiscal ignorance that making the necessary changes inflicts pain of epic proportions.
The same holds true for exercise. Doing regular physical activity will cause pain but we need to see beyond that pain. Statistics tell us that more than half of adult Bajans do not exercise. We can do our part to set our country back on the path to pecuniary independence. By engaging in regular physical activity, over time we can contribute to the reduction of the burden of chronic diseases. We can become more productive, resourceful and innovative workers finding solutions to challenges that may present themselves. With the increased libidos, hopefully, there will be a commensurate rise in the population with the production of valuable citizens over time.
Our vision cannot be myopic in these times. We need to look ahead and implement changes that will facilitate the lives we want for ourselves, our children and subsequently our country. Using the foregoing as my frame of reference, I am actually excited to work out this evening. That plus my ongoing bet!
(Rénee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)