Economy, News

Why We Must Walk or Cycle into Better Health

Last week on Sat­ur­day 31st July, I par­tic­i­pat­ed in Jamii Tel­com’s 57-kilo­me­ter Fai­ba na Marafi­ki walk. The goal of the walk was to raise aware­ness on healthy liv­ing. Inter­est­ing­ly, this crit­i­cal point on healthy liv­ing was dri­ven home right there dur­ing the walk. I was struck at how most young peo­ple who start­ed the walk dropped out even before the fif­teenth-kilo­me­ter mark.

Con­sid­er­ing that sev­en­ty-five per­cent of young peo­ple in Kenya are below the age of 35 years old, their gen­er­al unfit­ness could be a health time­bomb wait­ing to explode. Accord­ing to the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO), more than 80% of the world’s ado­les­cent pop­u­la­tion is insuf­fi­cient­ly phys­i­cal­ly active. These are the same young peo­ple who grow up into unfit and con­se­quent­ly unhealthy adults.

Accord­ing to the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO), non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases kill 41 mil­lion peo­ple each year. This trans­lates to 71% of all deaths glob­al­ly. Amongst these non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases are lifestyle dis­eases that can be large­ly pre­vent­ed through prop­er nutri­tion and fitness.

WHO fur­ther reveals that glob­al­ly, 1 in 4 adults do not meet the glob­al rec­om­mend­ed lev­els of phys­i­cal activ­i­ty. As such, if peo­ple across the world were more active, then 5 mil­lion deaths could be pre­vent­ed annually.

Evi­dent­ly, we must become more phys­i­cal­ly active if we are to pre­vent dis­eases from rav­aging our bod­ies. Among the elder­ly, exer­cise helps to keep Alzheimer’s at an arm’s length. Among chil­dren, exer­cise helps in tack­ling atten­tion deficit dis­or­der. This was revealed in a study pub­lished by the pedi­atrics journal.

In order to dras­ti­cal­ly step up our health and well­ness, I sug­gest that we retrace our steps to the days of our grand­fa­thers and fathers when walk­ing was the main mode of trans­porta­tion in Kenya. We must stop per­ceiv­ing walk­ing as some­thing that you only do when you have no mon­ey for bus fare or your car has bro­ken down. As a mat­ter of fact, employ­ers need to insti­tute walk/­cy­cle-to/from-work days when their employ­ers will be encour­aged to dump car keys, matatu or boda boda rides and sim­ply walk or cycle to work.

Walk­ing is one of the eas­i­est and most con­ve­nient ways of inte­grat­ing phys­i­cal activ­i­ty into our lives. Every time we walk, we are engag­ing var­i­ous crit­i­cal mus­cles in our legs. In addi­tion to its car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness ben­e­fits, walk­ing also improves our men­tal health.

Apart from walk­ing, cycling is the oth­er sim­ple but pow­er­ful phys­i­cal activ­i­ty that we should embrace. If any­thing, we must main­stream cycling in the coun­try. In the Nether­lands, almost a quar­ter of all trips are made by bike. As a result, there are more bikes than peo­ple in the coun­try. This does­n’t just hap­pen auto­mat­i­cal­ly since the Dutch Gov­ern­ment invests over Ksh65.3 bil­lion into bik­ing infra­struc­ture every year. These invest­ments aids in wide­spread bik­ing, wide­spread sav­ings, and exten­sive health benefits.

Kenya needs to fol­low in Nether­land’s cycling tracks. We need a law that will make it manda­to­ry for all new road con­struc­tions to have cycling lanes. In the same vein, we also need to enact and enforce leg­is­la­tion encour­ag­ing and pro­tect­ing cyclists in urban centers.

A few years ago, researchers dis­cov­ered that bik­ing injects more years into our lives. The researchers focused on Tour de France which is a gru­el­ing, pre­mier cycling event that is held annu­al­ly in France. The research showed that the for­mer pro­fes­sion­al rid­ers lived to 81.5 years com­pared to the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion’s 73.5 years.

This proves that jump­ing onto our bikes can def­i­nite­ly help us to ride longer in the jour­ney of life. So the next time you are dri­ving your car or rid­ing in a matatu and see those cyclists or foot-trav­el­ers out­side your win­dow, don’t feel sor­ry for them. Envy them and emu­late them.

Whether it is cycling or walk­ing, we need to become more phys­i­cal­ly active not just occa­sion­al­ly, but reg­u­lar­ly because it also makes us smarter. A 2011 review of stud­ies con­firmed that exer­cise boosts brain­pow­er! In the mean­time, look out and join me in par­tic­i­pat­ing in the next Fai­ba na Marafi­ki walk as we think and act green!

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About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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