My Denmark Diary: A land of fitness freaks
Posted Sunday, January 27 2013 at 00:00
Back in Uganda, I was too busy to jog, let alone exercise to keep fit. But now that I am in Denmark, where nearly every food I run into at the mall raises my sugar levels an inch higher, I am realising why keeping fit is a priority to many.
Thinking back to when I was growing up, I loved to run short distances in school, especially the 100 metres. It gave me an adrenaline rush, and, of course, I loved winning every time I ran.
As I grew older and the pressures of studying harder to make it to a good school intensified, I soon realised that I hardly had the time for co-curricular activities and my interest soon waned. I instead frustratingly tried to master subjects like Maths to improve my grades.
Many years later, I still had no time for outdoor sports. Perhaps, the expensive fees for gyms and sports equipment can probably explain the poor culture of fitness, or why most of us (Ugandans) are rarely interested in outdoor activity that involves exercising, except for our national legend, Kiprotich, who won an Olympic gold medal in London coming from a country where such a sport is only done by a handful.
In Denmark, the situation is quite the opposite. People here indulge, and by this I mean eating all sort of sweet or calorific foods, at a limit though, most of them pay their time.
It’s not uncommon to find people jogging even in the freezing temperatures, or going to the gym for a proper workout for at least an hour about two or three times a week. Some of my dorm mates even ran marathons for hours in the name of fitness. As for me, I could not be bothered; my diets seemed to work anyway.
However, I soon realised how much sugar there is in the processed products we consume here. You see, most of the foods sold in the supermarkets are preserved like frozen chicken, peas or potatoes. These preservatives contain a substantial amount of sugar, at least enough to raise the blood sugar levels in one’s body, and the weight too.
Not only that, it’s quite expensive to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in this part of the world, not to mention the tempting junk foods like burgers and fries sold in giant consumer popular fast food chain stores like Mac Donalds or Burger King.
This is not to say that people do not consume foods from these places, but rather they are aware of that the indulgence in these kinds of foods would be catastrophic for their health.
On the flip side, there has never been more obese or unhealthy people like today, as much as there are fitness freaks and healthy people, there are equally a number of people with weight and health problems.
People here are well aware of their health and they watch what they eat for their daily meals. For example for breakfast a typical Dane would have “rugbrød” known as rye bread with a cheese, a spreading of ground cow liver, or with an egg.
The first time I came to Denmark I was advised by my mentor to always have this bread for breakfast, as it was filling, and a healthier option to the white bread I normally had back home. The taste of “rugbrød” can be described as hard to chew, but can be tasty in my opinion only when you get used to it.
This kind of healthy diet, where one is aware of the food’s nutritional benefits combined with the fitness routines, is why most people here live long and healthy lives( if one doesn’t drink and smoke that is). The life expectancy is at 76 years for men, and 81 years for women which is undoubtedly higher compared to that of Uganda. We may not have the best medical services, but at least we have a rich food culture and an abundance of organic foods.
Perhaps we take this for granted; especially when we start to think that consuming fast foods is something trendy, or whenever we take the wonderful warm weather which is 365 days a year for granted by not doing more outdoor sports like running to make our bodies more fit.