Physical fitness is defined as a set of characteristics i.e. :
The work capacity of your heart and lungs,
The strength and endurance of your muscles, and
The flexibility of your joints that relate to your ability to perform physical activities.
A person doing agriculture work without using machines / tractors , labourers doing civil construction works like digging, moving/lifting/shifting of heavy materials etc., plastering, painting etc have a good level of fitness as their work involves activation and utilisation of of all the muscles and joints of body in a routine manner. they are not require do take extra session to maintain their fitness.
Similarly the a lady in a village who used to do all kinds of the household works were also maintaing a high level of fitness. Her works includes ; sweeping, cleaning, washing, cooking, getting water from far away wells, flouring the cereal / grains at home using hand mills, doing all kinds of serving the cows/ goats/ sheep/ bullocks , milking the cows/ goats, providing all kinds of assistance to men in agriculture works, like sowing, trimming etc.
With the rise of so called “development” due to rise of science and technology we started using machines to do all these routine laborious works. This led to adopting luxurious life style by minimizing doing physical works.
By not activating / using a muscle / group of muscles/ joints, it leads to deactivation / loosening of that , and slowly slowly the fat starts developing on and around that muscle / group of muscles/ joints.
This fat can be removed if that muscle / group of muscles/ joints are again put into use regularly.
How that labourous life lifestyle has been keeping the fitness level of rural persons so high is explained below by analysing the daily routine life of a common men/ women in rural area.
Walking before defection :
Earlier in all the villages and now also in some, people used to go out of the village either in a designated area or in their own fields for the morning calls / defection in open. This forced them to have a compulsory walk of around a few hundred meters / half a km. before defection, which is very beneficial from health / digestion point of view. Due to this walk the small residues left stuck in the descending colon is completely moved down to settle in rectum, because in the night these colons are in horizontal plane and while walking they are in vertical plane. This way the colons are cleared/ cleaned completely. This is not possible when toilets are in house.
Though drinking water immidiately after getting out of bed helps upto some extent in cleaning / clearing the descending colon but not to the that extent as happens by way of walking.
The culture of keeping toilets inside the house was borrowed from western countries. This probably developed there, may be due to very cold environment conditions as it was not possible for them to go out and defect in open where the temperature is 0 to – 20 / -40 degree Celsius for more than 6 months in a year. But in India there is actually no need have toilets inside house where temperature is rarely touching to 0 degree Celsius, and in summers the situation is reversed, the closed toilets are very hot and inconvienient.
Using Indian way to defection : Defection of stool is better done while sitting in a squat position which is natural rather than sitting in chair position which is artificial.
The general misconceptions about the chair pose sitting toilets is that they are suitable for older persons having knee pain. In addition people has now developed their own firm belief that using indian squat sitting toilets may cause knee pain / knee injury. The fact is that if you start using / continue using Indian squat sitting toilets , the body automatically strengthen the joints by developing the related muscles so naturally and quickly that in a few days / weeks, squat sitting becomes effortless. And if you continue to use them you may, really, will never loose that strength, even in very old age.
In fact squatting is one of the first and foremost necessary exercise to maintain fitness or one can also say other way round that only fit people can sit in squatting position for a long time.
Of course, one caution is required in winters. When you wake up in winters the body is very cool and blood circulation is very low, and when you go to toilet straight coming out of the bed, at that time, a sudden jerk while sitting or getting up from/to the squat position may cause some injury in muscles, but that is only because your joints and muscle are not warm enough to take that load. This problem is never there when you have are walking out of village for defection, as your body gets warmed up sufficiently. So in winters a slight warmed up muscles care acre of injuries on knees..
iHowever, if you cannot getaway with the western toilets, some improvement is possible by using stools to come nearer to the posture of sitting squat, as shown below.
Sitting on ground : Earlier in villages people used to sit on ground. Even in schools also the culture was to study while sitting. Even all the shopkeepers and their staff used to sit all the time. This sitting was usually in “Sukhasan” ( सुखासन ) way .
Many people sit in “Sitting down squat” position which strengthens the thighs, calfs, and most of the muscles joining the ankle, hip and hip joints. Sitting in sukhasan ( सुखासन ) strengthens not only hip adductors more , but improved the backbone muscles specially lumbar, spine erector.
The sitting squat position is also called मलासन / उपवेशासन an fh exaction of getting up and sitting down is known as दंड बैठक (Dand Baithak)
Now on the modern lifestyle as at home we have chairs / sofa / beds and in schools/offices we have chairs, while travelling we have in car / bike. This way our body never get the chance to squat sit on ground. Thus, the knee / ankle / hip / pelvis joints are not used at all, thereby making these joints and related muscles weak.
This दंड बैठक exercise and सुखासन used to a common practice in villages in earlier days as it was part and parcel of routine works like :
Sweeping/ Wiping the house in sitting way : In villages the first task of house wife after finishing the nature’s call is to clean the house by sweeping. Earlier the broom used to be very short in size say of around 1 to 1-1/2 feet long only and sweeping is done in sitting way. The front / side movements of body in the sitting down squat position is added advantage as it strengthens all the muscles surrounding the foot and heels .
Wiping has not been the regular feature but was done only occasionally, but that too only by sitting way. Wiping by sitting way using a hand towel has additional advantage, as it strengthens the back and shoulders muscles.
Sweeping and wiping done using long broom/ rod which is of around 4 feet in length does have that mush advantages compared to doing it by sitting.
Cooking on ground : In villages food used to be prepared while sitting. While doing so, the pelvis joint used to get strengthen and to a little extent knees. With the modern western styled standing kitchen that benefit is lost. Though one my say that it is a good exercise of legs for couple of hours a days. Yes, it is but we need to look into posture aspects also. First, preparing a food in Microwave Oven or Pressure cooker may be more convenient but to prepare “roti” / “chapati” may not as convenient as while sitting. Second continuously standing with a slight bend forward is not the proper way if you have to be in that posture for an hour or so. This wrong posture puts undesired pressure on knees which may be a factor for knee joint pain problems at later age.
Food preparation is an art and requires good mood and relaxed mind as well as patience for good preparation. While standing for a long time the body is not relaxed and thus the mind. When the body is not relaxed or it is getting tired, naturally one would like to finish off the work as quickly as possible. This tendency of body and mind would not deliver the best of preparation compared to the one which is done sitting, with relaxed body & relaxed mind without hurry. Though this aspect is out of context but very important.
Washing on ground : Washing clothes by hand keeps all the hand , arms and shoulder muscles active and strengthened in addition to the advantage of sitting down position. Using washing machines has deprived us of this wonderful excercise.
Using hand Mill “Chakki” : Every house used to have hand mills to flour the cereals and legumes.
This chakki stenghtens the hand and shoulder muscles specially the biceps and triceps, which keeps you energetic and strong. Now the electric floor mills have snatched that golden opportunity of keeping fit.
Making butter : The butter preparation is very good exercise of hand muscles like triceps .
Getting water from wells : Every lady used to go for a long distance walk to get water from well. Pulling the water bucket from deep well with the use of rope strengthens lats, abs, back and arms muscles. Carrying a pot full of water on the head strengthens the backbone, neck, cervical and pelvis joint.. Holding the pot on head by hands again improves shoulders and triceps. With the taps extended inside the house all these muscles rarely get a chance to get activated and strengthenied.
Lifting of weights : In the day to day life one used to lift various items from groun dot a good height of 3/6 feet like buckets full of water , grain bags, floor bags, pots full of water , cows feed, cow dung, etc. This was best for back and pelvis and used to strengthen back , lats etc .
Today hardly any person is subject to such works , thereby keeping the muscles and body inactivated and weak .
Climbing Stairs : It was a routine feature to climb 10-15 time a day to go to terrace, In summer sleeping is usually on terrace and in winters whole day most of the work was prefererred to be done on terrace in direct sunlight. This much movement was enough to keep the legs , knees, ankles, thighs etc healthy and fit and strong.
Using rough/ uneven floors : God has made our foot in such a wonderful shape that it permits you to take movement on any side / any direction. It allows to balance the body in all the directions. No where in nature there is a floor which is perfectly flat, but humans are making floor more and more flat as if humans have flat foot, surprising ! Walking on flat surface restricts or we may say concentrate the body weight on fewer pout so foot and particularly more on the big toe mound. The side toe mounds are used relatively very less. This puts more pressure on the front and back muscles of legs, slowly making the side muscles inactive. This phenomenon over a period of time, becomes a factor for leg pain initially and then the knee pain. With uneven surfaces the load is also shared by outer arch , outer little toe mound and all the other toe mounds, that keeping side muscles of leg also active. The cow dung floor is better this way at home as it is uneven and rough.
Out side the house also there used to be cachcha roads which were always uneven. In fact the effect of walking on uneven surface can be best experienced when you walk in agriculture fields specially before sowing.
With the tiled and marbled floor the body weight is concentrated only on centre points of mounds. the spitting more pressure on these points instead of spreading the pressure all around the mounds. This lead to early fatigue.
Using mozadi always and not sleepers / chappals This problem is further aggravated using sleepers which have only one string between big toe and middle finger toe of foot. In order to hold that string we are unconsciously pressing the big toe and to a little extant the 2nd toe also. This tendency concentrate the load on the big toe mound alone whereas the use outer arch , outer little toe mound and other toe mounds is further reduced. To minimise the effect of sleepers, we should use the sleeper which has no string between the big toe and 2nd toe, instead, can have the SINGLE top cover over toes, to hold the foot completely. This enables the big toe mound to be free and slightly lifted up , thus allowing the load to get distributed on side outer arch, outer little toe mound and other toe mounds also. Mozadi is the best way to wear shoes.
Sleeping on Ground / Khat / Charpai / Takhat : In the modern style sleeping on double bed is like sleeping on the side birth of Indian train, where the movement is restricted on head and leg side, as, most of the Indian double beds are of 6′ length with wooden planks on head as well as on leg side.
Since pillow is and the head is never covering the whole pillow width, effectively the bed height available after using pillow is 5′ 9″ / 5′ 10″.
Further while sleeping side ways or reverse (chest down) the foot extends beyond heels by 2″ to 3″ , effectively demanding that much length more of bed to stretch fully.
So if your height is 5′ 8″ or more , then it is most likely that you may not be able to stretch your whole body, length wise without bending at knees. When the knees are bent, it automatically bends the pelvis which in turn bends the backbone.
This whole chain, effects the digestive system, as well as legs muscles, knee joints, belly, backbone & cervical.
So you now think that the bed length needs to be around 6′ 6″ so overcome the above problem! Yes, but the problem due to wooden planks on head and foot side is still remaining. That problem is little different and is like this. These planks do not permit your arms / shoulders to extend beyond shoulder while sleeping. Since whole of the day, your arms are hanging below your shoulder height. Very rarely you need ot take it above the shoulder height. Therefore to balance out the connected arms/ shoulder muscles which are required to take the arms above shoulder height and also to keep them strenghtened, you need to extend them above shoulder height. That is possible only when either the bed lenght is increased by another one foot. The simpler way is to remove the obstruction itself which is preventing the extension beyond shoulder. However, making a bed of 7’6″ or more is practically difficult, but the second alternatives is easy :
1) If you do not provide wooden planks on head side, but then wall will still remaining as an obstruction. The solution is remove the wooden plank on leg side and start sleeping reverse way , i.e. keep the legs on wall side and head on other side. Your hand are now free to extend unto any length. In case you feel directional issues according to Vastu Shastra then the alternative is sleep side ways , i.e. keep the head and foot on the open side of bed rather than on the plank (closed) side of bed. That is what the rural people do, they used Khats / Charpais/ Takhats etc.
2) If you are single and using single bed, then keep the side of the bed on wall side, that usually is the practice.
3) Put additional lenght of cotton carpet on leg side while sleeping on ground to get additional lenght of bed.
The correct and best way to sleep which extends your arms beyond shoulder will be possible if the pillow is not used, like this :
Sleeping like this stretches the muscles on abdomen and on chest. In fact that helps in better and speedy digestion. It also improves the posture significantly. In fact most of the cervical problems are cured by sleeping this way.
This also provides very good stretching to back and arms muscles. Helps in improving digestion.
Using no pillows or very thin pillows : Initially it may be difficult to sleep without pillows, and if you are using thick pillows than arm extension beyond shoulder is extremely difficult. There is a middle way and that is to use thin pillows, a thin as possible in following way :
This provides a wonderful stretch to ascending and transverse colon, allowing the food to travel fast. The colons also gets cleaned and cleared of completely.
Using cotton carpet instead of cushioned mattresses : One cannot sleep on thick luxury / foam cushion mattresses without using a pillow. The cushion dips more at places where body weight is more. Thus while sleeping it is most dipped at shoulder and hip level. Therefore the cervical cannot remain horizontal but gets curved,and the head tilted. Thus to support the head one is forced to use pillow. However there is no such necessary requirement of pillow when you sleep on plain ground with or on a a lean cotton carpet. Initially the carpet may feel little hard so one can have thin cotton mattresses with a thin pillows, to start with. But gradually pillow should be dispensed with.
Using Khat made of moonj :
This khat has many advantages as compared to sleeping on ground / takhat etc. The abdomen muscles are streched to a very good extant when sleeping side ways. The back / spine is stretched to avery good extant while sleeping reverse. The hands have to put necessarily below head while sleeping normal , thus stretching the triceps / biceps and shoulders . Due to the extended stretches not only the muscles gets relaxed like massaging has been done but it also helps in improving and speeding up the digestion.
Milking the cow / goat : Milking a cow is not a simple things, it requires extenuative power in thumbs and fingers which in turn gives immense strength to biceps, triceps, trees and arms muscles.
Doing agriculture related works : While ding all the agriculture related works whole body gets strengthened and activated. Almost all the muscles are used while doing that. It looks as if God has designed our body / muscles / skeleton / joints etc to make it suitable for agriculture works. Its is quite unnatural to leave these works or got it done by machines , as luxury deactivates the muscles , allows the fat to develop and make the body unfit .
The key to remaining fit is : do all the household work by self fully .