Kerala's 'agro gym' offers complete body workout using organic farming
No fancy equipment is required for fitness for this natural workout; only a sickle, a shovel and a hoe and using them, Satheesh grew both his health and organic vegetables
When youngsters his age took gym memberships, Satheesh M from Alappuzha in Kerala discovered a new health regimen. Once practiced by his ancestors and now mostly forgotten by young people, the 40-year-old fitness enthusiast introduced the 'agro gym'.
No fancy equipment is required for fitness for this natural workout; only a sickle, a shovel and a hoe. Using them, Satheesh grew both his health and organic vegetables. The 'agro gym' is situated in a small plot of land - just an acre, most of which is used for farming.
A senior assistant at the District Public Service Commission (PSC), Alappuzha, Satheesh begins his day with ploughing the soil. In season time, he sows seeds for a new batch of crops. "It involves a great deal of physical effort. Not to mention, dealing with and being prepared for uncontrollable factors such as rain, heat, extreme cold, equipment breakdowns and others. But in the end, it is a zero-cost mode of exercising that keeps my weight under check, is good for the heart and respiratory systems, increases mental endurance, and keeps musculoskeletal issues at bay," he shares.
It has improved his flexibility and stamina too. The agro gym can be disappointing in the beginning because unlike normal gyms the results cannot be seen gained overnight.
Patience and persistence are the key words. It has taken him a decade to reach his fitness levels today. "Food has played a big role," he reveals. Ripe red tomatoes, juicy brinjals, tender okra, long beans, plump bitter gourd and snake gourds are part of his diet.
"I grow various kinds of green chillies. It’s a gladdening sight - red spinach shining with morning dew, and pumpkins of every size in their beds. Papaya variants, aromatic smell of turmeric plants welcome whoever steps into this organic haven," he says.
For a long time, Satheesh would look down upon farming. He thought it was not for educated people. "When better sense prevailed, I didn’t waste a second getting right on to it," he shares. When the fitness farmer got a job at PSC, he realised the importance of good health.
He found that 90 percent of government officials suffered from lifestyle diseases. It was worse for people nearing retirement. "The reason was stress and the long working hours, and people were glued to their seats," he says.
He started driving to a gym in Alappuzha seven km away from his house, rising every day at 5 am. It was a hard schedule. Also, it was expensive. "Then I overheard someone saying 'good exercise to burn fat is to fill pots of water from the village pond to water the plantain trees early in the morning'. I simply followed that advice," he says.
First the former gym rat plucked the weeds growing in his land and did hilling, which was a complete body workout. "I began farming by cultivating essential vegetables for good health. I grew a variety of cucumbers, from which we made juice or salad. I then grew many other vegetables and fruit," he shares.
Satheesh believes in engaging children in farming or gardening practices from an early age. They should be taught how to water plants and cultivate vegetables, according to Satheesh. He adds that his biggest strength is the support he gets from his wife Reshmi and three children.
The agro gym has inspired many. Many youngsters and women in his village have shown interest and have promised to make biofarming a way of life. "Those who have tried it say that it is far more beneficial than HIIT exercises in gyms. Simply tilling the soil using a hoe is as good as 20 reps of squats and Crossfit exercises," Satheesh says.
Exercise and nutrition apart, farming reduces the risk factors associated with the unpredictability of our times such as the pandemic. "Farming makes you self-sufficient. It gives you the confidence to face difficult situations. It teaches you patience, and helps you accept the failures that sometimes come with biofarming. These are all very useful things when it comes to living a complete life," he says.
Under the farm-health concept, his plan is to enrol young people in farming. "I will be happy to share the vegetables they cultivate with me," he adds. Cultivating good health the 'agro gym' way is the new fitness mantra.