Three foreign words that translate into better health and fitness – Times News Online –

Published April 23. 2021 10:51PM

If you don’t find this article sui generis, it’ll make me hi fun kou gai – but hardly enough so to resort to seppuku, also called harakiri. If you feel the article is truly uniek, however, I’ll be filled with jouissance.

I’ve always liked using way-out words, including obscure foreign ones that occasionally appear in our language. But you may not, so I’ll restate my start.

If you don’t find this article to be the opposite of ordinary – to the degree that it’s in a class by itself – I’ll be frustrated and angry, but not nearly shamed enough to perform the ritual disembowelment done by samurai to atone for creating dishonor. If you do find the article to be especially unique, though, I’ll be ecstatic.

While you may not share my interest in weird words, reading this column suggests you are interested in working out, maintaining a healthy weight, and improving your mental state.

That’s why I’d like you to know more about three foreign words that are muy importante to health and fitness.


This Swedish noun is loosely translated as “speed play” (with an emphasis on “play”) and entered the USA as a direct result of the running boom in the 1970s.

A study done by Yankelovich, Skelly and White, Inc. in 1979, in fact, estimated that 40 million U.S. adults – half the number who voted in 1976 presidential election – pounded the pavement a few times a week. While many experts argued the estimate was inflated, this they could not deny.

Whatever their number, these recreational runners tended to do too many runs at the same pace, which often lead to boredom, injury, or both. So some experts suggested that once or twice a week American runners should do a fartlek.

I once likened doing so to driving a stick-shift car on a serpentine road just for fun – while still obeying the speed limit.

So once you feel warmed up on your run and that little boy on a bike passes, you might notch it up another gear to catch him. A quarter mile later and just because it feels right, you might go harder again from one telephone pole to the next. After doing that two or three more times, you could use the “free speed” from that downhill two blocks before your house to try to go faster than you did between the poles.

While the running boom has come and gone, the speed play of a fartlek can be applied to any cardiovascular exercise. It’s a great way, for instance, to break the monotony of that half hour you do three times a week on the elliptical trainer. But contrary to what you’ll find on the internet, a true fartlek can’t be pre-conceived and written down.

If it is, it’s really that other form of training that only those prepping for competition really need: structured intervals.

Hara Hachi Bu

More than 400 years before the birth of Christ, Confucius advised to eat until “eight parts full,” hara hachi bu. Since a less-than-full stomach digests food quicker and reduces the odds of digestive problems, this became the norm throughout the Far East.

To a high degree, it’s still followed on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Studies of present-day Okinawans have shown that hara hachi bu does more than improve digestion. Compared to other areas, Okinawa has one of the lowest rates worldwide of heart disease, cancer, and stroke, as well as one of the highest life-expectancy rates.

Moreover, Okinawa has the world’s highest percentage of centenarians, at approximately 50 per 100,000 people. Their senior citizens register a collective BMI score more than 15 percent lower than seniors in the U.S.


When asked about the current level of stress among adults and teens in the U.S. today, one health-care professional answered with a single word: “daunting.” If stress has a stranglehold on you, a bit of niksen may just break its grip.

A source quoted in a July 12, 2019 Time magazine article written by Sophia Gottfried, explains this Dutch word means “to do nothing, to be idle, or doing something without any use.” Sitting around the house, listening to music, and letting your mind wander are cited as examples.

While niksen may seem like a way to escape work and problems, the result is often the opposite. A 2013 study published in Frontiers in Psychology and cited in the Time article showed a bit of niksen provided inspiration and clarity about upcoming actions in the subjects studied.

Moreover, allowing your mind to wander while your body does “nothing” – which includes things you can do reflexively, like knitting – provides stress-free time for the former and restoration time for the latter.

Engage in niksen regularly, and you’ll slow the aging process and strengthen your immune system.