Vibhas Bapat
ACMA Member

“Back in the 1970s, when I was growing up in small town Canada, there wasn’t the sympathy and understanding there is now about asthma – most school teachers were sympathetic but didn’t really understand the condition. Other than respecting requests from parents (and my Dad who was a physician) they didn’t get why me having asthma meant that I couldn’t keep up with the other children in gym class.”

Avoiding exercise

“For a long time, I wouldn’t take part in sports and exercise as much as I could have because I knew that even if I tried I wouldn’t have the stamina of other people. I didn’t want to fail so I didn’t really try.”

Getting inspired

“But one day I went to my local shopping mall early in the morning to meet a business client and I saw a variety of mall-walkers – people of different ages and abilities all exercising and walking the perimeter of the promenade of the mall’s upper level. I was well aware of mall-walkers but had never seen them for myself: an elderly man in a silk pyjama doing the slow, controlled and rhythmic movements of tai-chi; a snow-haired lady with a walker determinedly pushing herself past the window displays; a younger couple powerwalking at a fast pace before heading to work.”

Getting my walking shoes

“A few days later, I inquired with Customer Service at the mall about when they opened in the mornings and bought myself walking shoes. I chose a good-quality pair as I knew that would mean I’d be more likely to stick with it. The first time I walked, I was just able to do 2 rounds of the upper level which is less than 2 ½ kilometres before I became short of breath and wheezy. I came back feeling terrible. But looking at the other walkers around me I kept at it and I built up surprisingly quickly.”

Forming friends and forming a habit (the good kind)

“Now and throughout the winter, I mall walk almost every day and can easily do 4 rounds which is over 5 kilometres on weekdays and sometimes 5 rounds (over 6 km) on the weekends. Once a month I enjoy a coffee in the food court with some new friends like Mr. Sun Lin Chou – the elderly man who I saw doing tai chi on the first day. While I prefer to walk outdoors in warmer weather, staying indoors at the mall avoids some triggers for my asthma including extreme cold and smog.”

Feeling healthier

“I obviously still have asthma and it is noticeably worse in the winter. But I feel much better now that I’m more fit, and I’ve noticed my reliever inhalers last a lot longer because I don’t need to use them as much. My mall walking has also helped me control my blood sugar without medication and helped my arthritis pain as well. Getting fit has also made me more aware of what I put into my body – my diet’s better and I don’t drink as much.”