Walk Your Way To Health And Happiness. By Shobha Shukla

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We just observed the World Diabetes Day and also Children’s Day in India. We are also in the middle of an international conference on Lung Health in Berlin ( 41st Union World Conference on Lung Health, Berlin, Germany. There can be better way to meaningfully link all these events together than by taking part in the Global Walk which is being promoted by the World Diabetes Foundation.
Walking is the easiest and cheapest way to a healthy life. By walking, we exercise and feed our lungs with oxygen, and make them healthier. We also reduce the risk of getting diabetes and other diseases. Moreover, this simple pleasure transports us to the good old days of childhood when we hopped, skipped and danced (all these are various forms of walking) our way to a healthy and joyous world. The first Prime Minister of free India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, loved children; and the Father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, amongst other things, loved to walk his way through difficult situations. As a tribute to both, (as well as to the cause of diabetes) thousands of children and adults in India, and all over the world, will be part of the Global Diabetes Walk Campaign at the behest of World Diabetes Foundation (WDF). This walkathon is part of the efforts of WDD to remind one and all about the importance of physical activity in our lives for, not only preventing diabetes, but other chronic diseases as well. Physical activity combined with good nutrition is the perfect recipe for a disease free and healthy world.
One project partner of WDF, has initiated a ‘walk activity’ in schools of two or three districts of Kerala, a southern state of India. The project aims at promoting healthy life styles in children and adults. It was launched on 2nd October (the birthday of the Mahatma) this year, and would culminate today on 14th November. School children have taken it upon themselves to spread the message that health and physical activity go hand in hand. They have recruited their parents, friends, and family members, to be part of this gala and socially relevant affair. It is hoped that more than 400,000 people would have walked (at least part of their way), during this period.
Dr Anil Kapur, president of the World Diabetes Foundation, rues that “the focus on academic learning is so high that we have relegated the importance of physical activity, which used to be a part of the natural growth of the child. As a child, I used to walk from my house to the bus stand, and then again from the bus stand to the school. But my children have been driven to school in cars. Very often the environment outside is so unsafe that we do not allow them to go cycling or playing outdoors. This is very sad indeed, and hence it becomes all the more important to have enough sports facilities in schools. I appeal to educationists to sacrifice at least three academic lectures/teaching periods a week and devote that time to meaningful physical activity for students.”
Parents will also have to be mobilized and educated to demand compulsory sports/ yoga facilities in schools, and not just computer labs. The process has already begun in many schools of North India, where a mass movement against sedentary lifestyle and junk-food/improper diet is building up under the aegis of project Marg, which has been initiated by Diabetes Federation of India, with support from World Diabetes Foundation. This project targets school children to make them discover the joy and benefits of healthy diet and physical exercise.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued the following statement to mark World Diabetes Day 2010 on 14 November: World Diabetes Day: A reminder of health, developmental impacts of chronic diseases.
In the words of Dr Ala Alwan, WHO's Assistant Director-General for Non communicable Diseases and Mental Health, “World Diabetes Day, held on 14 November, comes at a critical moment in the global fight against this deadly disease and a host of other chronic illnesses that are causing both untold, needless suffering and holding back the development of many of the world's poorest countries.”
Let us join hands in this noble cause and walk at least a mile today, and then every day, for our own good.



(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI). She is supported by the Stop TB Partnership to write from the 41st Union World Conference on Lung Health, Berlin, Germany (11-15 November 2010). Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)

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