On the move: For Mr SA, Habib Noorbhai, exercise is so integral to a healthy lifestyle that he believes it should be included in the hierarchy of needs, the theory devised by Abraham Maslow. Noorbhai, a biokineticist, also believes sitting is a large contributor to lifestyle diseases. Picture: SUPPLIED
On the move: For Mr SA, Habib Noorbhai, exercise is so integral to a healthy lifestyle that he believes it should be included in the hierarchy of needs, the theory devised by Abraham Maslow. Noorbhai, a biokineticist, also believes sitting is a large contributor to lifestyle diseases. Picture: SUPPLIED

Exercise should be part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, says reigning Mr SA Habib Noorbhai. He refers, of course, to the late American psychologist Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology.

More than 70 years ago, in his paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, Maslow developed his theory of a hierarchy of needs driving all humans. According to him, once people meet their most basic needs, they move through the rest in a specific order.

Psychologists have since depicted those needs as a pyramid with five tiers. The base is the most elemental of human needs: food, water, warmth and rest, with sex nestling in between. Above those is the need for safety and security.


Thereafter, Maslow said, we move through psychological needs of "belongingness and love" to "esteem needs" for prestige and accomplishment.

At the apex is self-fulfilment or self-actualisation. That’s all about achieving if not the perfection of full potential, then as close to it as is possible for fallible humans.

Of course, that’s somewhat simplistic. It does not take into account the reality and diversity of human existence, behaviour and conditions. Still, Noorbhai believes exercise and movement are as basic as the need for rest. They are also an essential part of the self-esteem and self-actualisation process.

He should know. Noorbhai is a lecturer and researcher in sports science at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and a biokineticist. That means he is a clinical specialist in human movement and exercise. Biokinetics involves a thorough understanding of exercise medicine, sports science and functional rehabilitation.


Noorbhai will graduate in July with a PhD in exercise science from the University of Cape Town.

His research focus was — and is — on cricket.

However, he is more than just a cricket scientist. At heart, Noorbhai is a humanitarian.

In 2013, he founded The Humanitarians, a volunteer-based organisation that conducts community projects and programmes through sport, health, education, sustainability and innovation. Noorbhai is continuing these programmes during his reign as Mr SA. His aim is to spearhead change and make a difference in society.

Becoming Mr SA was initially overwhelming, he says. How-ever, he quickly learnt to cope with the stress of being in the public eye. Noorbhai has also found ways to balance his Mr SA duties with his day job and humanitarian work.

Along the way, he makes sure to keep his exercise routine constant. An exception was during the December break. Noorbhai travelled to India and ended up with "Delhi belly" for five days, which put him off schedule. But once he was better, he kept moving.

Relative concept

"Exercise is a way of life," says Noorbhai. "If it’s important — and it should be — you will find the time to do it. Everyone needs to do exercise."

Exercise is essential for overall health and fitness in body and mind, he says.

However, he says fitness is a relative concept, an individualistic measure for each person. And despite what many doctors and dietitians preach, Noorbhai agrees with many sports scientists that exercise is not a good weight-loss tool.

That’s a subject for another article. Suffice to say, there’s good reason why you see so many overweight people still flogging themselves at the gym or collapsing in a heap at the Comrades Marathon finish line.

Losing weight is much more complex than eating less and moving more, Noorbhai says. He also says obesity is not from gluttony and sloth. And despite generic guidelines, there is no one-size-fits-all regimen.


To highlight the point, Noorbhai has written a book on the topic: Should you Follow Healthy Fit Sheep? In it, he provides analogies on the why, what and how to live a consistent and individual lifestyle based on the most rigorous scientific evidence.

The best way to get the right health and fitness plan, Noorbhai says, is to "follow your body, not the pack".

He also subscribes to the view that sitting really is "the new smoking".

Credit for coining that phrase goes to James Levine, US director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative. Levine has studied the negative effects of sedentary lifestyles for years. He once said that sitting "kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting".

That’s probably overstating the case. However, Noorbhai says that since the chair was invented, lifestyle diseases have increased. He conveys this message whenever he is interviewed as a fitness expert.

"We are built to stand and to lie down, not to sit," Noorbhai says. "It is imperative to move. Verily, biokinetics equals life through movement."

Noorbhai practises what he preaches. Sugar and sedentary behaviour are the real killers in modern lifestyles, he says. Thus, he makes sure to stand most of the day and to walk as much as possible at work.

He trains at Bodytec once a week and goes to gym two or three times a week.

Activity and nutrition

Noorbhai also combines an active lifestyle with a low-carbohydrate, healthy-fat eating plan. He believes this formula is a "formidable combination", which helps him achieve his primary aim: "To be healthy and agile, not masculine."

It works for him. It makes him productive and less susceptible to the effects of stress. And he sleeps better, he says.

Noorbhai starts the morning with eggs and coffee and drinks water throughout the day.

For lunch, he will snack on biltong, cheese, avocado or almonds. Supper is usually chicken or meat with vegetables and a blue cheese and mushroom sauce. On training day, he’ll have a sweet or baked potato. His favourite way to finish off the day is with a warm cup of black tea.

Noorbhai is his own version of action man. "Correct action starts with correct thinking and correct thinking starts with correct mind-set — let’s take action," he says.

Marika Sboros is editor and publisher of Foodmed.net

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