“Most Ugandans live sedentary lifestyles. They come from home to work in the comfort of a car, with no exercise at all, they eat unhealthy food, and this is how many of them acquire these non-communicable diseases."
KAMPALA - About 100,000 of over 40 million people in Uganda die of non-communicable diseases every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A WHO report of 2018 shows that people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active.
As a way of reducing NCDs such as diabetes and hypertension, the health ministry launched the inaugural National Physical Activity Day on July 8 last year at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala. The event will be held this year as well - same venue.
The event, aimed at raising awareness on the need for increased physical activity, is being held on the second Sunday of every July.
Health minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng says they want to remind Ugandans about the need to stay fit and active.
“Most Ugandans live sedentary lifestyles. They come from home to work in the comfort of a car, with no exercise at all, they eat unhealthy food, and this is how many of them acquire these non-communicable diseases," she said at the maiden event.
In 2018, NCDs reportedly killed up to 100,000 people out of over 40 million Ugandans annually; which was 35% of the total annual deaths in the country.
Jean Sseninde, who plays professionally for QPR in England, started playing football at the age of eight, inspired by her brother. The two used to play in their compound at home.
During her holidays, she used to jog, do pushups and situps as well as playing football, which helped her to remain fit and develop a career in soccer.
“I play soccer as a profession, but I also do a bit of running to help me keep fit. It also improves my mental wellbeing,” she says.
Regular physical activity of moderate intensity such as walking, cycling, or doing sports has significant benefits for health, says the WHO.
Dr. John Omagino, the director of the Uganda Heart Institute, says physical exercises help one to build the body's immune system and that people who are physically fit do not easily fall sick.
He says exercises boost brain power and academic prowess.
“The only way one can have blood distributed to all one's body parts is by doing physical exercise,” says Omagino.
Crucially, you may need to know that often, people catch chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, because of unutilised food in the body. “Doing physical exercises helps in the burning of calories or doing away with unwanted food in the body."
The thoracic and cardiac surgeon's advice is clear: Walk at least one kilometre every day. If you supplement that with such activities as swimming, rope skipping or dancing, the better.
The heart institute boss recommends that schools, hospitals and homes should all have space to accommodate physical exercise. For hospitals particularly, patients can recover faster with physical exercises.
How much physical activity is recommended?
WHO recommends that children and adolescents (5-17 years) do at least one hour of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
Adults aged 18–64 years should do at least 150 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
For additional health benefits, they should increase moderate-intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or equivalent.
People with poor mobility should perform physical activity three or more days per week to enhance balance and prevent falls.
Dr. Wilson Rwandembo is the former principal of the Uganda Institute of Allied Health and Management Sciences (UIAHMS) Mulago. He says that before one engages in physical exercises, especially those which involve carrying of heavy metals, they should seek guidance from a physiotherapist or from an expert who studied sports science.
“An expert will help to measure you and tell your body mass index (BMI) so that the objects you carry are not heavier than you, to instead hurt you. You might carry heavier objects and yet you weigh less than that, so seeking physiotherapist’s guidance is very important."
Rwandembo says physical fitness improves respiratory, cardiovascular health, and general health. Staying active can also help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and reduce your risk for some cancers.
“However, you don’t need to seek medical advice for you to start walking and also run to cover a certain distance and see to it that you keep fit."
Also related to this story
Fitness expert here to work with Parliament
Museveni launches National Day of Physical Activity
Avoid meals towards bedtime, tips Museveni
1.4 billion risk disease from lack of exercise - wHO