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STEPS

THE late Dr. Jose P. Rizal stood less than five feet. Treble his waistline and that gives the size of his chest, so historians have it. And barrel-chested fellows like our national hero are turning as rare as hen’s teeth these days that has seen more and more pork barrel-bellied blokes hogging every nook and cranny of our landscape. 

If memory serves, part of the image remake for the Philippine National Police that erstwhile top lawman Panfilo Lacson sought was a 34-inch waistline for policemen, whether desk-bound or on the beat. Many balked at such a physical specification—too easy to indulge in extra rice than exercise. 

Lacson must have wanted law enforcers to look trim—even look good without tell-tale love handles from lack of physical discipline. He must have wanted the men under him to have longer shelf-life (medical findings point to greater longevity for those who engage in strenuous physical exertions). 

This year (2013), nearly an entire batch of police trainees in their late teens and early 20’s walked out of the Philippine National Police Academy training camp—the so-called dirty dozen drills that a man of arms breezes through on any given day proved too much for their young bodies. Yet, no drill sergeant raised a howl how the current crop of wannabe lawmen has turned tough as marshmallows.

A recent Philippine News Agency feature cites the case of a 28-year-old doctor who was so exhausted from the holiday party-hopping that he fell asleep, never to wake up—pancreas failure did him in. 

The same feature points to a 34-year-old who pigged out on too much good food and drink—he just dropped dead from myocardial infarction from that too much intake that his heart couldn’t take. 

Fact: Malnutrition that grips about 2 million Filipinos hasn’t turned up fatalities that warrant inclusion of hunger as among the top 10 killers in a 100-million population. Lifestyle diseases—cardiopulmonary ills, cancer, and complications arising from diabetes— remain the leading causes of deaths in the Philippines, yeah, an unhealthy lifestyle is still the plague that afflicts majority of the populace. 

Contrary to fitness buffs, physical exertions that lend good health don’t eat up too much time. All it takes, as recent medical findings suggest, is 10 minutes, a mere 10 minutes of intense drills within a 24-hour day. Ten minutes is a lot lesser time than the average of nearly three hours spent daily by Filipinos tinkering with their smart phones. 

Then again, health experts warn that a couch potato mode for 10 hours daily can nullify whatever health benefits a 10-minute drill does. A recent study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet said that risks of heart attack or stroke can be curbed “by simply walking an additional 2,000 steps per day.” 

The study gathered over 9,300 adults in 40 countries with so-called impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)-- they had also been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or were considered at risk from it. The respondents were ordered to go through a "lifestyle modification program," and told of the benefits of reducing body weight and dietary fat and doing regular exercise. 

All told, the risk group took steps—2,000 of them—and turned their health for the better.

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