Many people will have been dieting and doing dry January to recover from the excesses of Christmas, as well as thinking about how to keep fit and healthy through 2018. So, what can we learn about fitness from animals? Well, the answers may surprise and intrigue you…
The man behind the creation of Pilates, Joseph H. Pilates, was inspired by watching animals. He noticed that big cats such as lions and tigers were always muscular because of the little exercises they did each day, stretching and balancing on rocks and branches. He figured this was a highly effective way to keep fit, and from that developed the Pilates system.
It may be the simplest one of all, but the value and importance of walking is certainly something we can learn from animals. Any dog owner will know how much their animals love a walk at least once a day, whatever the weather. Migratory animals are nearly always in the move, and often long distance; for example, elephants may walk over 50 miles in a single day (the equivalent of walking the length of two marathons!).
Walking is a simple but effective form of fitness, and also good for the mind, allowing thoughts to wander through our heads. Many of the great thinkers used to go for walks to help their work, such as Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist who proposed the theory of evolution and had a walking circuit in his garden that he used to stroll along to clear his head and allow new thoughts to come into his mind.
From the first stroke we learn, ‘doggy paddle’, to ‘butterfly’ and the ‘frog-kick’ for breast-stroke, nature has provided inspiration to help us swim. Doggy paddle is exactly what it says on the tin, swimming like a dog to stay afloat and move around the water. Butterfly is a more complex stroke (one I have never been able to do well!), with arms and legs waving around in something that looks (vaguely) like a butterfly.
In Australia, baby alligators were used to ‘encourage’ kids to swim faster – the little ‘gators were released into the swimming lane after the kids, who had to race down the other end and out of the pool before being caught (not something we would recommend or condone!).
And for those unable to swim, there is inspiration from the animal kingdom; hippos cannot swim either. Although they spend most of their lives in the water – their skin is very photo-sensitive, so they burn easily if they come out of the water during the day – they are not able to swim. Instead, they run along the bottom of a lake and then kick off from it if they need to rise to the surface, for example if they are seeing off a competitor or showing their annoyance at a boat.
So, there you have it, some inspiration from the animal world for keeping fit in 2018!