Fauja Singh Should Inspire More Asians To Exercise
By Nadeem Badshah
The days are dark and long, the weather is horrendous and the Champions League is weeks away – so going for a run is perhaps the last thing on your mind.
This is the mentality of many Asians towards exercise. A study out today shows that one in three Britons from deprived areas don’t do 30 minutes of exercise a month, with those from Manchester being the worst culprits.
This partly explains why people of south Asian origin are more at risk of diabetes and heart problems than other groups. So this week I offer an inspiration for people wanting to go jogging in the evenings but don’t get past their front door.
It is Fauja Singh, nicknamed the Turbaned Torpedo, who will turn 103 this year. I have been lucky enough to interview Fauja about how he took up running aged 89 following the death of his wife and son.
Fauja, believed to be the world’s oldest runner, has completed nine marathons and has a host of records in his age group. He looks like a man of working age, is always impeccably dressed and has the energy and zest for life of someone in their twenties.
Despite appearing in an Adidas advert with David Beckham and carrying the Olympic torch, he was humble, thankful to God for his long life and incredibly modest.
Fauja, who lives in east London, retired from competitive races last year. But he told me he still exercises for four hours a day with a mixture of walking and jogging. And his diet remains the same and is perhaps one of the secrets to his long life.
Linseed and a cup of tea in the morning, plain yoghurt and two glasses of water before exercise, a chapatti and daal with yoghurt for lunch, and a ginger curry or toast with jam or honey in the evening.
I spoke to him at the Karamsar Gurdwara in Ilford where he is a celebrity among worshippers and locals. It is hugely inspiring to meet such a man, who now spends his time travelling the world from Las Vegas to India meeting people and being invited to events.
The most amazing thing was his diet and exercise routine has not changed since he gave up running for the Sikhs in the City club and being coached by community leader Harmander Singh.
And how this lifestyle is against the grain for many British Asians who live on a diet of oily and greasy food with no exercise to burn off the calories.
A recent study found that people in their nineties can benefit from regular training which improves strength and stamina. Last year, the London marathon had 237 runners aged over 70, and 12 in their eighties.
But experts say that most retired people in Britain do not recognise the benefits of regular exercise. Fauja certainly does. And this is someone who was unable to walk until he was five due to weakness in his legs while growing up in the Punjab.
If someone who is 102 has the motivation and energy to exercise daily, what excuse do the rest of us have?