In a recent interview with Radio France Internationale (RFI), I weighed in on the conversation around physical activity as a preventative measure against chronic diseases (non-communicable diseases). The world is currently experiencing epidemiological transition from infectious diseases to chronic diseases. According to available evidence, chronic diseases kill close to 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all global deaths. Evidence also indicates that 77% of all NCDs are in low-and middle-income countries. Many countries, including Kenya, are even experiencing a double burden of disease meaning that both non-communicable diseases and communicable disease are on the rise. In Kenya, 50% of total hospital admissions are attributable to NCDs, painting a grim picture of our healthcare system.
During my interview with RFI, I shared my experience and journey with physical fitness and NCDs advocacy. I talked about my unique experience doing exercise every morning and how this has helped improve my health outcomes by taking personal responsibility for my health. As an NCDs advocate, it is not lost on me how physical activity helps improve my brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of and exposure to diseases, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve my ability to do everyday activities. With the WHO indicating that physical activity reduces diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, depression, stroke, and colon and breast cancer, it only makes sense that each individual should embrace it.
Everybody desires or wish they could regularly do exercise. But many lack the skills and even the knowledge on how to launch into a life of physical fitness and make it a habit. In keeping with this reality, here are some of the tips I shared which can help individuals improve their experience with physical exercise;
Tip 1: Physical exercise should be simple. It must not be hard or intense, unless you are a body builder who wants to build muscles very fast. No pain no gain is an old and tired dogma that does not really apply in physical exercise. If you make it hard, you will feel exhausted and give up before you reach your goals/targets. If you make it simple and enjoyable, you will always be looking forward to waking up for it the next day. Make it simple, I should repeat.
Tip 2: Be consistent. Consistency is the name of the game. Consistency is the new currency. You can spend a whole day in the gym, but if you are not consistent, you are just as good as those who do not hit the gym. Please make it simple, be consistent and see how the body rewards you.
Tip 3: Concentrate on the process, then the progress. If you don’t fall in love with the exercise, it is only a matter of a week or two and you go back to your old life, devoid of physical exercise; a lazy and sedentary lifestyle, to say the least. Trust the process, fall in love with the progress. Without too much effort, you will begin to notice the simple changes in your life and this will keep you going.
Tip 4: Physical exercise should be among your daily chores/errands. Think about the things you do daily like making your bed, cleaning your room, preparing a meal or attending meetings. What if physical exercise was part of your daily errands? Think about the benefits you can reap as a result of making it your habit to exercise. I honestly think that the rewards are numerous, even satisfying. Make it your habit, improve your health and keep NCDs at bay.
Tip 5: If you can do it where you live, the better. One of the things I grappled with was having to commute to the gym. That was a hassle, aah! When I realized that my balcony could serve me well, I comfortably started doing my abs and resistance exercise without having to commute. With this, I save time but also enjoy the experience. The rewards are motivating.
In finishing, allow me emphasize that We all have a role to play in reducing the burden of NCDs. By just embracing physical activity, we have already taken a momentous step towards reversing the burden of chronic diseases. WE CAN DO THIS!
Here is the link for the interview. It was done in Swahili language so get your google translator ready if you are not familiar with the language.