Tama Tū, Tama Ora; Tama Noho, Tama Mate.
Through physical activity we thrive. Through inactivity we languish.
Physical activity has always had an important role in Māori society. Historically, Māori lived very active lives and, as a result, had impressive physiques. The traditional way of life meant that the level of everyday activity was naturally higher than it is now. Physical activity was embedded strongly within games, leisure, the arts, creation stories, oratory, legends and warfare. In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, records from early Europeans described Māori as a fit and vibrant people, whose bodies and limbs had great muscular strength. This description still rings true for some Māori, however the amount of activity we do, the types of activity we do, and for some of us, our physiques, are now very different from those of our tupuna.
A major difference from traditional Māori society to today is that our ancestors’ daily lives were full of unintended and incidental physical activity rather than structured physical activity otherwise known as ‘exercise’. Unintended, and incidental physical activity means being active without realising it. It is any movement of the body that requires effort, and this type of movement raises your heart rate and works your muscles. It includes activities such as walking, kanikani, gardening, running around after tamariki, housework, hunting, washing your car by hand, mowing the lawns, and standing rather than sitting. The term ‘physical activity’ refers to these unplanned, everyday movements. Historic examples of this included walking for transport, gardening, hunting and gathering, warfare, and participating in waiata and kapa haka.
‘Exercise’, however, is planned and structured with the aim to improve or maintain fitness, such as going for a run, working out at the gym, participating in group exercise classes, or playing social sports. People often exercise as a way of being more physically active when they know their day to day life does not involve much physical activity. For example, if you sit at a desk all day then increasing your exercise is a good option to increase your overall
Both physical activity and exercise are important elements in leading a healthy lifestyle. In modern Māori society it is pleasing that many of our people are keeping fit and active by participating in structured exercise such as hapū challenges, cross fit, martial arts, mau rākau, Iron Māori, waka ama, gyms, and club sports - but it’s also important to remember increasing the amount we move by doing ‘unintended’ things like housework, walking or biking to school or work, playing with tamariki, and gardening, are as important too. So if you’re not an active person a great place to start is by doing more of these things, and if you’re a fit and active person, continue to improve your health and revitalise your mauri.
For whānau who are active, keep it up! For those about to start their korikori tinana journey, start small and keep going!