On a recent trip to India to attend the wedding of my girlfriend’s friend, we found ourselves strolling around Goa, a beach town on the western coast, early on a Saturday morning. As we tried to dodge the slowly-strolling bulls with which we shared the narrow streets, we spotted a group of uniformed children standing in separate male and female single file lines. They were being led by two of their older classmates, jumping around and chanting in unison. Curious, we walked over and stood against the fence watching the kids raise their arms over their heads, extend out to each side, and bend over touch the ground. They weren’t jumping around… they were doing calisthenics! They were not chanting, but instead counting each rep, from one to sixteen, in Hindi. We meandered over through the schoolyard, over to the teacher, who told us that they are made to go through these movements every day before they start school. And yes, they do go to school six days per week, with Sunday being their only day off. I asked if I could join the kids in their daily warm-up and the teacher graciously obliged:
The kids were so welcoming and friendly, with most unable to stop smiling as this foreigner stumbled through their basic counting and goofily fumbled through their morning exercises. I was happy to see that even though the school buildings lacked gymnasiums and designated physical education teachers, the teachers and students unknowingly embodied the ‘back to basics’ mentality that we embrace at Throwback. What I found to be even more amazing was that some of my girlfriend’s family members still performed the exercises and movements they learned on the playground on a daily basis to keep active and limber. Even though we did not notice nearly as many fitness options in India as we have in the U.S., the importance of physical activity is taught at an early age and remains with people even through adulthood, despite the lack of commercial options available. However, we did notice hints that it may be gathering steam amongst the locals. We spotted this sign everywhere in Bangalore advertising free aerobics classes:
We were also reminded of the ever-reaching presence of the largest American companies continuing their push to dominate the fitness space globally:
The most striking thought that comes to mind is that habits taught to children at such an impressionable age can have staying power. These habits, when taught early, can shape the lives of these children for years to come. We all have a role in the thoughts and ideas that are engrained in the minds of our country’s young ones. Teach them that physical activity is important and that drinking endless amounts of sugary drinks is dangerous, and those habits can go a long way in fighting the battle with obesity. Once habits are formed, they are hard to break. Let’s teach habits of which we can all be proud!
Written by Brian