More people take to morning walk to beat heart ailments


KATHMANDU, March 27:Four years ago, Parbati Prajapati, 44, a resident of Kalopul in Kathmandu, felt pain in her chest. She went to a nearby clinic for check-up and the report showed a very high level of cholesterol in her blood. Already a patient of uric acid, she saw the alarming rise in cholesterol level as a threat to her life.

That was when Parbati decided to go for a morning walk every morning. “Regular morning walk has helped me a great deal in keeping cholesterol and uric acid under control,” shares Mrs. Prajapati. “It has helped me to remain healthy and fit. I feel fresh and energized for hours after I return from my morning walks.”

Parbati is always accompanied by her husband Ramesh Prajapati during the walks. “We walk for around two hours every morning,” says Ramesh, who is a farmer. “After I return from morning walk, I find myself full of positive thought.”

Like the Prajapati couple, thousands of people walk in the morning in the Valley and the number has been growing.

A string of deaths of well-known people in the last few years linked to the ailments related to heart, including popular TV talk show host Indra Lohani and eminent anthropologist Saubhagya Jung Shah, has woken up the Valley denizens to the threat posed by heart disease. They are increasingly hitting the streets to beat the threats of heart attacks and other deadly health problems.

The new generation of Kathmanduites is also showing a great deal of fixation with their fitness. Urban lifestyle, characterized by over-reliance on motor vehicles, less exercise and heavy intake of junk foods, is taking its toll on the lives of people, including young and teenagers.

Ramesh Prajapati and Parbati Maharjan

Youngsters themselves seem to be aware of these health problems and are taking to morning walk as a way to keep healthy.

Prabin Ghimire, 18, is one such youngster. He looks healthy and physically fit and hopes to remain such to avoid health complications. He walks an hour daily in the morning. “Health is no doubt the first priority. But morning walk also allows me to spend some quality time and think about my personal life,” he says.

Not only youngsters like Prabin or the middle-aged couples like Ramesh and Parbati, but even elderly people have adopted jogging as the best way to keep ailments away.

Shyam Adhikari will turn 70 in just two years. But he says he never feels fatigue. He rather looks sprightly. He says he walks nearly 10 km every morning with his friends to remain healthy. He believes it is the regular morning walk that has kept him sprightly healthy.

“Our walk starts from Kalanki to Khadka Gaun and it takes almost two hours,” he says. “It keeps us fresh the whole day,” adds he.

The rise in the number of morning walkers is also because most doctors nowadays advise their patients to start jogging.

“Jogging is the best exercise for heart patients,” says Dr Man Bahadur KC, director of Shahid Gangalal National Heart Centre (SGNHC). “Jogging helps open tissues and obtain oxygen easily.”

“Not just high blood pressure patients but all individuals should jog as it helps human body in many ways,” says Dr Dinesh Bastola, of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH).

As the dependency to luxurious facilities grows and as people work under stressful conditions, the number of heart patients is also increasing. According to doctors, not only old people even young ones have become a common sight at heart surgeons.

Doctors say flourishing junk food culture and the use of mixed oil and mixed ghee are other factors contributing to the rise of heart disease. “Today people are becoming lazier. They prefer to use vehicles even to commute a short distance they can reach on foot in 5 minutes,” adds Dr Bastola.

“The culture of eating out at restaurants is another major reason that is increasing health risks,” shares Bastola.

Although jogging culture is picking up, joggers rue lack of open spaces in the Kathmandu Valley.

Haphazard urbanization of city spaces has left few open spaces for exercising and morning walks. They also complain about increasing air pollution, which has made it very difficult for joggers even to breathe.

Air pollution poses threat to joggers

No one disagrees with the fact that morning walk is beneficial to people, especially those suffering from several ailments like heart diseases. But, worsening air pollution in the Kathmandu valley has posed a grave threat to joggers.

“People believe that they benefit from morning walk,” says Dinesh Pokhrel, general secretary of LEADERS Nepal, which conducted a research about the impact of air pollution on people´s health. “Morning walk is undoubtedly beneficial to people. But rising air pollution is not only reducing its benefits, it is fast becoming a threat for joggers´ health.”

In order to avoid air pollution, most people go jogging before 6 in the morning. But even in the morning, air pollution is beyond the tolerable level, says Pokharel.

An environmental analysis of LEADERS Nepal found that morning air during winter is more risky compared to summer. During winter, surface temperature of the earth remains low and foggy air blankets the streets till late morning. People breathe all dust particles that pollute the air. “We breathe the surface air which is extremely polluted,” says Pokhrel.

According to the study, New Road was the most polluted area of the Kathmandu Valley as 1290 micro-gram per cubic meter dust particles was found in the air. “That is twelve times the WHO recommended level for safe air,” shares Pokhrel. Gongabu Buspark, Balaju, Putalisadak were other most polluted locations of Kathmandu, according to the study.

On the basis of their study, the government at the time set seven air quality monitoring stations at different places like: Putalisadak, near Patan Hospital, Kritipur, Thamel, Macchegaun, Lagankhel and Bhaktapur in 2002. With the financial support of Rs 60 million from the Danish government these seven stations were built inside the Kathmandu valley. But none of them exist today as the government failed to maintain these stations.

The early morning walkers and school children of Kathmandu Valley are suffering a bit more than other by air pollution, according to the researchers. A study conducted in 1999 by LEADERS Nepal, showed even the morning walkers are not safe from the health problems that result from polluted air.


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