For years I played golf and tennis, but I find that neither of these games is adequate [as exercise]; nor is hunting. The majority are only able to indulge these sports once or twice a week, which is contrary to the body’s requirements. The average English gentleman does practically nothing in the way of sport for five days a week, and then indulges himself over the week-end.

He is unquestionably wrong. He should, at least once a day, and oftener if he can, take some pleasurable and vigorous exercise. Unless he does so his whole body becomes ungainly and horrible, which is the most ungrateful way of returning thanks to “God Who made us in His own image,” for, although I do not believe that we are actually made in the image of God, I believe that physical beauty has a spiritual value.

All my life I have been keenly interested in the kindred subjects of exercise and diet, and their influence on the general health and fitness of the human body. As a child I did far too little exercise, I was brought up to ride well from the time I was about five years old, and rode regularly until I was about sixteen or seventeen. It was then I wanted to take a short walk of about 1 1/2 miles and found to my chagrin that at the end of it I was completely exhausted. And I had been in the habit of riding about 20 miles some three or four times a week. Riding had left me soft in all muscles with the exception of those actually exercised.

It was then I decided to improve my physique. I came in touch with the late Eugen Sandow, who gave me some excellent advice which I have never forgotten. Later I took up boxing. I know of no exercise so physically beneficial as a combination of the French and British boxing methods — the French for the digestive and internal muscles and the legs, and the British for the arms, back and shoulders.

Although I am now forty-nine, I never miss a day without exercising, preferably boxing or kicking. At one time I used to have a sparring partner sent over to my rooms at the Ritz from the National Sporting Club. In the summer months I often rise very early, put on a sweater, and go for a run through Green

Park, up Constitution Hill, and back again before breakfast. If I am in France, I usually go to Aix-les-Bains, not for the waters, but to enjoy long walks in the mountains, which is a splendid exercise.

Never a day goes by but I spend at least fifteen to twenty minutes in some form of physical exercise. Even when I am in India or in Africa, where I have to work very hard — sometimes eighteen hours a day — I always make time for that necessary physical exertion which is so essential for bodily fitness.

Never a day goes by but I spend at least fifteen to twenty minutes in some form of physical exercise. Even when I am in India or in Africa, where I have to work very hard — sometimes eighteen hours a day — I always make time for that necessary physical exertion which is so essential for bodily fitness.

For years I played golf and tennis, but I find that neither of these games is adequate; nor is hunting. The majority are only able to indulge these sports once or twice a week, which is contrary to the body’s requirements. The average English gentleman does practically nothing in the way of sport for five days a week, and then indulges himself over the week-end.

He is unquestionably wrong. He should, at least once a day, and oftener if he can, take some pleasurable and vigorous exercise. Unless he does so his whole body becomes ungainly and horrible, which is the most ungrateful way of returning thanks to “God Who made us in His own image,” for, although I do not believe that we are actually made in the image of God, I believe that physical beauty has a spiritual value.

Walking is a good exercise if it is not allowed to be merely a saunter through the streets. A good swinging pace of between four and five miles an hour is ideal.

Walking is a good exercise if it is not allowed to be merely a saunter through the streets. A good swinging pace of between four and five miles an hour is ideal. I do a good deal of walking, and usually cover about ten miles in two and a half hours. I think it is a very bad thing for one who is heavy to try to reduce his weight by any form of exercise or diet. Rather should he try to get hard and remain big instead of being merely soft and large. Softness is the enemy, not size.

I have a very strong aversion from colours when exercising. Coloured socks, coloured trousers, or underclothes are, I think, unhealthy, and I am against the wearing of tweeds for the same reason. White cotton, white drill, white shoes seem cooler; flannels or serges or woollens that are porous are to be preferred most. Too much sleep dulls the brain and also precludes taking tall advantage of many of the beauties of nature. In my many crossings over to the Continent and world travels I usually try to journey by night so that I may enjoy the dawn as it breaks on the sea or on different landscapes. Unfortunately in Summer-time it is not practical politics to be up before sunrise every morning. though in Winter I always see the dawn, usually from some spot in the East or on the high seas, and sometimes on the Riviera.

Five or six hours of regular sleep and a ten-minute nap either before dinner or immediately after lunch or in a motorcar when being driven are quite enough for most of us. If one allows himself only that he is likely to sleep the whole time and not to lie awake with insomnia. It is the same as getting full value out of a twenty-minute walk which might have taken two hours.

In regard to diet, I believe that we eat too much, and for this reason I think we should all drop one or two meals a week, which is my own practise. That means that on three days a week I take only one solid meal.

In regard to diet, I believe that we eat too much, and for this reason I think we should all drop one or two meals a week, which is my own practise. That means that on three days a week I take only one solid meal. I think that is more natural and simpler, and much less boring than some of the elaborate regimes that have been worked out by others. On ordinary days I have fruit and coffee for breakfast, and later take a big lunch. At tea-time I take tea only, and no solids. It is my custom at dinner to take a meal that is much smaller than my lunch.

I have no fads and few special fancies. I accept what is put before me, and the better the food the more I enjoy it. What a person enjoys is, in my opinion, good for him. Colour, which is to be avoided in clothing for exercise, is a stimulant in food. A beautiful apple or peach becomes tempting because of its colouring, and seems more enjoyable. Fruits are adequate for breakfast; I will not even admit a piece of bread to my table for this meal.

Travelling about the world I have always been interested in observing the physique of different peoples. I have noticed that the French seem to have improved enormously during the past thirty years. That cannot be due to the army, because military service was already in existence, but must have come from the practise of sport before and after military service. Football may have helped considerably. I know of no class of men in the world so magnificent as the officers of the British Army, especially those of the old army, which, I am sorry to say, has almost disappeared.

I think that physically English women look healthier and fitter than all other women. Here in England women shop assistants conform to the Shop Hours Act and do not work so long as in other countries, where women manage the businesses and the men spend so much time in the cafes, bazaars, theatres, etc.

In India the cult of physical training, which was very popular some forty years ago, has unfortunately receded, a retrogression I regard with great misgiving. The old and generally popular sport of wrestling is dying out. The people of India are going in for cricket, hockey, tennis. This means that after playing these games in their youth the great Indian public will grow up to exercise one or two days a week as the majority do in England and for the rest of the time will only watch semi-professionals playing.

His Highness the Aga Khan III

NOTES FROM K.K. AZIZ

  1. This article breaks the monotony of the long siring of political statements and is a pleasant and welcome reminder that the Aga Khan was a human being, leading a normal physical existence, before he was a politician and a leader. The article was the fifth in a series of the same tide in which various public figures told the readers of the popular and widely circulated London evening paper about their lifestyle, diet and care aimed at good health and a reasonably long span of life. The two-column article was signed by the Aga Khan and carried his photograph.

SOURCES

  • Text (secondary source): Aga Khan III, Selected Speeches and Writings of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Edited by K.K. Aziz, Kegan Paul International, 1997, Vol I, pp 786

    [Text verified and/or corrected from this source by NanoWisdoms]

  • The Evening Standard, London, 8 December 1925

POSSIBLY RELATED READINGS (GENERATED AUTOMATICALLY)