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The toon school of fitness

Scooby Doo is the healthiest cartoon character since he is perpetually running around, says a survey by the UK Department of Health. We bring you five cartoon characters who can teach you the mantras of healthy living

We may dismiss it as child's play, but there is a lot more to  learn from the toons onscreen than we give them credit for. Whether it's something as simple as not leaving your cat and mouse in a house full of food and weapons to the benefits of leading an active lifestyle.



This seems evident from a survey conducted in September by the Department of Health in the UK. The results indicated that Scooby Doo is the "healthiest of all children's television programmes".

To determine the results, consultants had to watch 200 hours of children's television, featuring the 20 most popular programmes, and they jotted down how many times physical activity was depicted in the shows.

Other characters featured in the survey include Tom and Jerry, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob Squarepants, Garfield, Peppa Pig, Shaun the Sheep, Bob The Builder, Ben 10, Postman Pat, iCarly, Horrid Henry, Tracey Beaker, Charlie and Lola and The Simpsons. Read on to find out our pick of five cartoon characters that can boost your health quotient.

Run Scooby Run
Scooby Doo and his gang of ghost-busting friends won maximum votes thanks to their incessant running away from spooks. Jordyn Steig, fitness instructor and founder, Wellistic Wholeness, says, "Running is an excellent form of fitness as it requires us to propel our entire body through our muscles. It works the legs, abs, back and arms, especially if you swing them back and forth with your elbows at a right angle."

However, running is not an activity many people can maintain over the years without damaging their knees. "The human body did not evolve for running for long periods of time. Our knees are, by far, the weakest part of the body and running puts a lot of pressure on them," says Steig.

He adds, "There are certain running techniques which make the activity more difficult but put less pressure on the knees, including running barefoot in the sand. The deeper your heel sinks, the better. You can also try and land on your toes as striking your heel on the ground puts pressure on the knees due to the angle and the way the impact travels through our muscular-skeletal system."

Bulk up a la Johnny Bravo?
The handsome, brawny character, Johnny Bravo, might not be able to help you impress a girl, but he can inspire you to get in shape. Fitness instructor, Sanjay Patel, says, "A six-pack is tough to get, but anyone can achieve it by following a strict exercise routine and diet. However, it's important to aim for overall fitness, which means building your stamina and strength alongwith your muscles."

This explains why the muscular Bravo was being easily beaten up by women half his size. "Contrary to popular belief, a muscular body is often neither fit nor healthy. Strength is the ability to use one's body and be supple and coordinated. Men with big muscles tend to achieve that look through artificial means, by using supplements that build bulk incommensurate with their actual strength.

Some of the tests of strengths are activities such as push-ups and pull-ups, which bulky men cannot do properly, for several repetitions," says Steig. "Bigger is not better. The less bulky you can be and still maintain good strength, flexibility, coordination, muscular endurance and stamina, the healthier you will be."

Get outdoorsy like Phineas and Ferb
A fairly modern cartoon, Phineas and Ferb is about brothers who don't know what to do during summer vacations. They shun sitting in front of the TV, computer or video games to build things or have outdoorsy adventures instead. According to Steig, "There is scientific evidence that sitting down, itself, causes all sorts of potential cardiovascular and metabolic problems, not to mention muscular-skeletal issues.

One of the simplest tests of fitness is how easy it is for a person to stand up from a sitting position. The more we sit, the harder it is to stand and the less appealing it is to many people psychologically, to the point where one prefers to be sedentary.

If you have free time, devise a game with friends. Perhaps, you can visit the skywalks in the city in a week's time and walk the length of each. Or simply hop on a local train, get down at a stop you have never heard of, and spend the day sampling the local delicacies and lifestyle. Go to Chowpatty and build sand castles, the fresh air will do you good.

The list of fun things you can do in our city are endless. The best thing about it is that, unlike playing video games or watching TV, you will build memories and stories you can cherish forever."

Popeye's spinach mantra
Popeye, the sailorman, and his love for spinach have helped many mothers convince their children to eat their greens. "Spinach is one of the common 'Green Leafy Vegetables' (GLV) eaten," says Eileen Canday, head nutritionist, Breach Candy Hospital.

"It is a rich source of iron content for vegetarians. However, substances such as oxalates and calcium found in spinach inhibit iron absorption and restrict its availability. We still recommend its inclusion in the diet as it has antioxidant properties and a fibre content." Will a dish of Palak Paneer help you be as strong as Popeye?

Canday laughs, "Spinach is a poor source of calories, proteins and fats and does not provide energy. Don't be mistaken that you will become physically stronger after eating spinach. Adults who have a uric acid problem and those people who have a restriction of Vitamin K in the diet should stay off spinach," she adds.

Pooh's home remedy 
Think Winnie the Pooh and you're transported to a beautiful land where a cuddly bear sits, his paws dipped in honey. "Honey is a natural sweetener," says Canday. Try a dash with your next cup of tea to cut down the calories from sugar or the ill-effects of artificial sweeteners. "Honey is mainly a fruit sugar and a source of glucose.

It is high in carbohydrates, hence it adds energy to our diet," says Canday. Besides, honey has medicinal value and figures prominently on your grandma's list of home remedies. "Honey and ginger powder is recommended for coughs and colds," says Canday. "However, be careful while giving honey to young children as it could contain spores of microorganisms."

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