How Physical Exercise Can Help Mitigate the Effects of Covid-19 | New times
Before March 2020, when Car Free Day exercises and other mass sporting activities were halted in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19), Kigalians and Rwandans in general had used to join a fortnightly mass sport. activity (Car-free day).
People would park their cars and exercise in order to maintain their physical shape and prevent the development of risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
Others used to take the monthly and / or yearly membership to gyms and fitness centers as their preferred way to maintain routine exercise.
However, since March 14, 2020, when the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Rwanda; the government restricted all unnecessary gatherings and subsequently imposed a total two-month lockdown in order to control the rapid spread of the virus.
During this time, many people lost their jobs and businesses, stayed at home watching, reading or listening to news about Covid-19, and it made them anxious or depressed in one way or another. .
Some people lost track of their routine physical activities and adopted unhealthy lifestyle habits, including eating unhealthy foods, smoking and drinking alcohol, which led to massive weight gain, obesity and some other vital factors that are risk factors for NCD.
The benefit of staying physically active remains important because our bodily systems work best when we are active, which can be through routine exercise. Physical activity and exercise are among the recommended measures to address mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, thus posing as a strategy to cover the two fronts of mental health and NCDs.
Since the beginning of June, contactless outdoor sports activities have been given the green light, followed by the resumption of the famous Car Free Day exercises which resumed on September 20.
The resumption of these activities has been praised by many people, and it not only promises to produce physically fit individuals, but also gives hope for some normalcy in people’s lives, which is important.
Talking to people and friends, going for a walk, as well as interacting with the community, are some of the best ways to cope with the psychological issues that are best offered by routine car-free days and other free exercises. contact.
However, these must be carried out safely to control the spread of Covid-19. In a report released on October 10 on World Mental Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that essential mental health services were interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 93% of countries around the world, while the need for psychological care has increased over the same period.
With such a high burden of interrupted mental illness, the return of Car Free Day exercises and other athletic arrangements serves as an intervention to address this growing need for psychosocial support for the public.
Research shows that people living with NCDs like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and other serious heart disease are at a higher risk of severe Covid-19 disease, and most of them can be controlled and managed by physical activity.
Since gyms and fitness centers remain closed, Car Free Day and other non-contact sports activities should be adopted as great alternatives for people. These not only meet their psychological and physical health needs, but also reduce the risk of suffering from severe COVID-19 if infected.
In addition, these sports provisions have been resumed without contravening the public health recommendations in force to control the spread of COVID-19. These include, but are not limited to, wearing masks before and after exercise, maintaining a sporting distance of 1.5 meters between them, and frequent use of hand sanitizers.
It is true that COVID-19 is our biggest enemy right now as it has pushed our friends, relatives and loved ones into extreme financial hardship, loss of life, and even an increasing mental health burden.
Nonetheless, we still have a chance to use what we have at our disposal to create a semblance of normalcy while taking responsibility for our health. Car Free Day and other sporting activities that have resumed are a great option to get us started and regain control of our health both physically and psychologically.
Together we will win. Let’s not let our guard down.
The author is a pharmacist and MSc. in Public Health at Mount Kenya University in Rwanda.