BY Dr. Sanjiva Wijesinha

For the past few months, we’ve been managing as best as we can with hardly any gas, barely enough kerosene oil, and minimal petrol and diesel. But we have not been spared hot air from our politicians.

Those of us who have been allowed to work from home do so in order not to use fuel consuming vehicles and diesel guzzling buses to commute to the office. Many people who would otherwise have driven – or been driven – to work are emulating the Prime Minister of the Netherlands and the Dutch people, and using their bicycles to commute. They are even posting pictures on Facebook to let people know that they’re cycling to their workplaces!

Despite having faced tough times over and over again during the past 74 years or so, Sri Lankans are known for our resilience and making the best of a bad situation.

So what are the benefits of not having the ready availability of fuelled vehicles?

Walking or cycling to work – for those who can do so – provides useful physical exercise. It helps to get the muscles moving, burns up excess sugar and fat, leads to weight loss and controls diabetes. Using our muscles as we grow older prevents muscular wastage.

When we walk to work or around our own homes on the days we don’t have to commute to the office, it provides an excellent form of weight bearing exercise. By using our bones and muscles to carry the weight of our bodies as we walk, we keep our bones strong and prevent the development of osteoporosis, which is common in people as they get older.

Osteoporosis is the weakening of bones. It makes them prone to fracture and liable to bend. The classic example is of the old aachchi who painfully walks with her ‘konda namaagena, haramiti aragena.

For those of us who are permitted to work from home (and many have grown accustomed to it, thanks to lengthy pandemic related lockdowns), there’s an opportunity to use the hour or more that would have normally been spent commuting to the workplace to be more physically active.

Working from home makes it easier to ‘sit actively’ – in fact, this is something you can do at your office desk as well. Get up from your seated position, and move, walk, stretch and rotate your spine. All these are good exercises that help maintain muscle tone and avoid the ill effects of sitting in the same hunched position for long hours.

Even the concept of ‘stay at home on Fridays to grow food’ is not something to scoff at. Taking a day off the grind of office work can be a good thing if you use the time to go outside into the fresh air.

And even if you don’t have a large garden to dig up and plant, cultivating a small bed of vegetables, or a few pots of chillies or eggplants, can be rewarding. The work of gardening makes you use muscles that are usually underutilised.

Being able to eat vegetables and leaves that you have grown yourself is not only good for your health; it will also give you a sense of satisfaction and even enjoyment.

So let’s make the best use of this bad situation and focus on improving our health!