There is a reason behind Uganda being the world’s fittest country

If you scroll back some years ago, there was nothing called as the fitness industry. People would do their normal work and come home for a good night's sleep.

The fitness industry in recent years has boomed to a great extent and is reaching another new level.

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Uganda is the most physically active nation in the world, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization.

Here are the reasons:

Jennifer Namulembwa spends an hour-and-a-half walking to work and that too five days a week. From Namuwongo on the south-eastern end of Uganda's capital, Kampala, she navigates her way past the railway line and crosses the treacherous eight-lane stretch of the highway. She skirts the plush Kololo hill, finally getting to Kamwokya suburb by 9 am. At work, the 34-year-old spends two hours on her feet, cleaning a three-floor building. The rest of her day is spent running errands for her boss. And just after 5 pm, she traces the same route, to return home.

"I'm used to it so I don't feel the distance. I never wear nice shoes to work. I would also like to enjoy the good life sometimes; ride in a car or on a motorcycle," she chuckled as she showed her dusty feet in black sandals.

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The study, tracking the level of physical activity around the world, found that only 5.5% of Ugandans had an insufficient level of activity. If compared to the population of people in Kuwait, American Samoa, Saudi Arabia and Iraq seem to be living highly sedentary lives. About a quarter of the world's population don't get enough exercise.

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Research says people in low-income countries seem to have a sufficient amount of physical activity in their lifestyles, unlike those in wealthier countries. Poor people are more likely to use public transport or be in an occupation that involves physical work.

Exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds

# At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week.

# Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles.

# Break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

Another example is that of Abiasali Nsereko, a 68-year-old farmer in Luweero, about two hours north of Kampala, starts his day at 5 am. After he is finished milking the cows, his real work starts. This could be cleaning the cowshed to the coffee bushes or the banana trees. He works his 10-acre farm by himself, with the occasionally hired labour.

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"I spend about eight hours on my feet, six days a week. I grow all the food that we eat. If I stopped working, I would probably fall sick. At my age, I do not have a single ache in my body," he said.

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There is also a growing trend of fitness groups around the city. People in their 60s to a nine-year old girl, they go through their jumps, squats and stretches. To an outsider, it may look good and all but Diana Nakabugo said that the group has kept her motivation up.

She's at the stadium from 6.30am three times a week, for an hour's work-out. But it is a struggle. The pressures of a working life do not leave much room for recreational physical activity.

Ms Nakabugo says: "I wake up with traffic jam on my mind. You have to drop the kids at school, and then make it to work, on time. It's a challenge. Many parents fail to prioritise exercise."

Schools without playgrounds:

Sabiti Matovu is a primary school physical education teacher who practises what he preaches.

"Physical education used to be on the timetable of every school. But here in the city, schools put emphasis only on academics," he says, concerned about how the country will keep its youth fit.

"Many do not have playgrounds. In the rural areas where there is space, the schools don't have PE teachers."

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Uganda's first cycle lane

Amanda Ngabirano, a lecturer in Urban Planning at Makerere's College of Engineering and Technology calls herself a "cycologist". She drives from home with her folding bicycle in the boot, parks halfway to work, and cycles the remaining 7km (4 miles).

My jaw drops when she said:

"I pick out the roads with the most traffic."

"There is order in that chaos. The drivers are going slowly, and they can see me. It's safer than the upmarket roads with fewer cars because there everyone is speeding," she explained.

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Roy William Mayega of the Makerere School of Public Health did a study in the peri-urban areas of Iganga district, east of the capital, in 2013.

"We found that 85% of the participants were physically active. We assessed blood sugar and weight as well. The 15% who were not sufficiently active were twice as likely to have diabetes and high blood pressure than those who were active," he said.

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What are you doing to change your lifestyle?

by Admin | Tue, Sep 18 - 04:33 PM

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