Under my byline

Running for re-election

Posted in Fitness, Living by Rrishi on 5 April 2009

When BJP candidate Vijay Goel goes seeking votes among morning walkers and joggers in city parks, he’s on to a good thing

In an urban constituency, unlike a rural one, organising an election rally won’t bring you face-to-face with very many of your constituents. So candidates have to go out the old-fashioned way and hunt for voters. In a generally affluent constituency like New Delhi, BJP candidate Vijay Goel decided to hunt where the fellows roam: in neighbourhood parks, in the morning, while citizens are on their morning jogs and walks.

It’s probably a smart move, whether or not it wins him votes. Everyone is in a better temper in the morning, amidst trees and grass, and while working up a healthy heart rate. And Goel may benefit by reminding citizens that, as an MP, he will consider parks important and worth safeguarding.

And they are — without parks, in our cities where streets are either jogger-unfriendly or unsafe, there’s no outdoor space in which to stretch muscles and lungs. Morning exercisers complain that pavements are patchy or non-existent, greenery is rare, highly strung stray dogs chase them through their territories, and bystanders stare while shy runners or walkers puff past. Parks enable the few truly energetic citizens to maintain their trim figures, and keep the less fit but nevertheless dedicated ones from going entirely to seed.

For this reason parks may deliver an economic as well as a social and environmental benefit: by allowing citizens to be fitter as well as happier, it’s possible that parks reduce the financial burden of health care, paying the city back in part for the resources it spends in upkeep — and in lost real estate.

Candidate Goel aims to exercise as well as talk to people, which may be a sign of unusual fitness. Any habitual runner will remember the early days, of shuffling along breathless, flushed and winded while preternaturally fit human specimens waft past in pairs or groups at high speed, talking nineteen to the dozen without seeming to be at all short of breath.

The key is that aerobic exercise like jogging, while it requires high oxygen intake, also makes the body’s use of oxygen better and more efficient. A survey published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last year indicated that high-intensity and sustained aerobic exercise might add as much as 10 to 12 biological years to the lifespan — no small benefit when political careers in India only take off after the politician reaches his 70s.

(Idea courtesy Archana Jahagirdar, after this article.)

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