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Why we should all be walking backwards for our health

Friday June 08, 2012 06:25:09 PM, Nury Vittachi, IANS

Want to get ahead? Just back up. The ancient Chinese tradition of walking backwards for health is spreading like wildfire around the world. More than 20 countries have set up "retro-stepping" organisations, including India, Malaysia, Argentina, France, The Netherlands, etc.

I heard this from a reader who went to a walking backwards event in South Africa and had a brilliant time except for when he fell over a small Mexican and broke his skull. "A bit of brain fell out, but not much," he told me. "I still have plenty."

I walk backwards myself from time to time, and it DOES make your muscles feel pleasantly loose and flexible. Here are the questions we backward walkers are always asked.

Q: When you walk backwards, how do you see where you are going?
A: You don't! That's the fun part.

Q: Don't you crash into stuff like lampposts?
A: No, because you choose a path clear of those things. But you frequently hit phone-starers.

Q: Don't they see you coming?
A: No. Phone-starers are primitive small-brained beasts who meander through urban areas, their gaze locked on to the phones they hold.

Q: Does it hurt when you crash into them?
A: No. The back parts of your body and your head are tough, while the front parts of the body and the head are very tender. Hee hee hee.

Q: Do you apologize to people you bump into?
A: Yes, but I don't mean it. Sometimes, I even manage not to laugh as I pick them up.

Q: Do you ever get hurt yourself?
A: Sure! From time to time we backward-walkers stroll off cliffs and die. This can really spoil your day. A guy walking backwards in mainland China fell into a lake and drowned. He gave up the sport entirely after that.

Q: Isn't walking backwards really slow?
A: No. A guy called Garret Doherty in the UK ran a mile backwards in less than seven minutes last month. Most people couldn't run a mile forwards in seven minutes, or in the case of my completely spherical former boss, seven years.

Q: Is there anything bad about walking backwards?
A: Three things. First, you look silly. Second, observers always make the same joke, shouting: "You're going the wrong way." And third, if you see an incredibly cute person of the opposite sex, it's REALLY hard to stalk them.

Q: Do you miss stalking people?
A: yeah, but a guy's gotta make some sacrifices to keep in shape.

Q: What advice would you give to a beginner who has never done it before?
A: Avoid piers, cliff edges, ships, hospital surgical theatres, chainsaw factories and bungee jump decks. Most importantly, watch out for small Mexicans.


In other news, a member of the paparazzi last week claimed to have been beaten up by JUSTIN BIEBER! Yeah, right, and then Hello Kitty kicked him in the face and took his wallet.


A young lady named Justine Elizabeth wrote on Facebook: "Illiturate people are really making me mad." You go, girl. Smack them illiturates without mersi. New generation writers often present us with puzzles. A girl called Lexa told internet readers about a visit she had just had from a young man. "All I can smell is his colon," she lamented. I really REALLY hope this was a misprint for "cologne".


Talking of spelling, US presidential candidate Mitt Romney was mocked last week when his staff accidentally spelled America as Amercia. That's nothing compared to probably the all time greatest political spelling mistake. In 2010, a candidate for governor had his name misspelled on voting machines in black neighbourhoods in Chicago. Richard Whitney was accidentally spelled "Rich Whitey". Yeah, he probably lost a few votes.


A judge heard a dispute between TWO GODS in India last week. I'd like to see a Western judge do that. Shringa Rishi and Balu Nag had been arguing since 1971 about their positions in a centuries-old procession of 200-plus deities, I read in an Indo-Asian News Service report, forwarded by a reader. But the judge at the Himachal Pradesh High Court sorted it out, giving Shringa Rishi the number two spot and Balu Nag "the role of the younger brother" in third place.

Cool that a judge can solve supernatural disputes. I wonder if he could be persuaded to deal with others? There's a ghost named Okiku at Himeji Castle in Japan, who rises from a well at night, counts to nine, and then shrieks. It's kind of a naff sort of haunting unless you know the full story. Okiku was a maid executed for breaking a plate. Solution: Judge could decree that nine-piece place settings are officially superior to 10-piece settings on earth and in the afterlife.

But the judge would have to work hard to avoid dealing with people who just THINK they're superhuman. Yes, I'm talking about you, Donald Trump.


The number of fat women in Japan is declining steeply, from 26 percent in 1995 to 22 percent in 2010, according to data revealed last week, forwarded by a reader named Shoichi. At this rate, there will be no fat women by 2030 and no women at all by 2048. This will be a shame, as Japanese men look terrible in sailor suit school dresses.

Is it because of the Japanese diet? No. Japanese MEN are becoming fatter at the same speed as urban residents over the rest of the planet. It's not the food, but "the Japanese female mindset".

Reading his email reminded me of the time I spent two days on tour with a Japanese author. I never saw her eat anything, nor take a toilet break. On my return, I read an interview with a woman who married into the Japanese emperor's family. She said the ladies of the royal court put her on a training course to teach her to arrest her bodily functions for a full day, so she would not have to interrupt her semi-divine duties with cries of: "Whoa, I need a MAJOR dump." I expect they upped it to a week, and then a month, and eventually got her to a state where she has no bodily functions at all.

And you know how Japanese toilets have lots of buttons? Well, on my most recent visit to Tokyo, I noticed the latest toilets have a button "For women only." I did not press it, in case it triggered some sort of mechanical action which either removed my genitalia, or (more likely) my ENTIRE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM.


A reader sent in a Zen thought for the day: "If you aim to fail and succeed, what have you done? Failed or succeeded?" Hurts my brain to think about it. Instead, I'm going to go and do some other high-minded journalistic activity, like getting beaten up by those two mega-thugs, Justin Bieber and Hello Kitty.

(Nury Vittachi is a columnist who travels around Asia. Send ideas and comments via








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