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The Importance of Physical Activity and Fitness During The COVID-19 Pandemic

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By Peter Mbayaki

With the upsurge of the Covid-19 second wave that is threatening livelihoods and disorienting the economy, many Kenyans should keep an eye on its spread and potential effects to minimize negative outcomes. With this in mind, Kenyan citizens ought to strictly observe Government regulations through the Ministry of Health as well as the World Health Organization by engaging in practices such as hand washing, social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitization.  The social distancing guideline, in particular, has largely separated people, and the previously accessed places such as gyms and playgrounds are not accessed every so often.

Regardless though, despite making efforts to observe the Government regulations to guarantee safety during these trying times, Kenyans need to maintain a regular exercise routine to better cope with this novel disease. Since most Kenyans spend most of their time restricted to their homes following the Covid-19 restrictions, it has been increasingly difficult for them to carry on with their fitness schedules, talk less of individuals who were planning to start a fitness routine. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is important for individuals of all ages to be active during this period.

 For individuals who cannot engage in vigorous exercise, engaging in 3-4 minutes of less intense physical movement such as stretching and walking can offer much in the way of easing muscles and improving muscle activity as well as blood circulation. Notably, engaging in regular physical activities benefits both the mind and body, and can help in weight management, reduction of blood pressure, and significantly cutting down on the risk of conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and several cancers. Exercise is also good for mental health.  It is crucial to keep in mind that all these aforementioned conditions can hugely increase susceptibility to Covid-19.

 World Health Organization (WHO) Recommendations on the Intensity of Physical Activities for Various Age Groups

 The World Health Organization has proposed some fitness-related recommendations applicable to various age group as follows:

  • Infants Aged Below 1 Year

 All infants under the age of 1 year ought to be physically active several times per day. Those who are yet to begin walking should spend at least 30 minutes in a prone position, and spend the rest of the day engaging in floor-based play while active.

  • Children Below 5 Years of Age

Ideally, all young children should spend at least 180 minutes per day engaging in a variety of physical activities. 3-4-year-olds in particular, ought to spend at least 60 minutes of this time involving themselves in moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity.

  • Children and Adolescents Aged Between 5 to 17 Years

Children and adolescents should strive to engage in at least 60 minutes of exercise ranging from moderate to intense physical activity and should include activities aimed at strengthening bones and muscles at least 3 days per week. While this is the minimum requirement as provided by the World Health Organization, going beyond the 60-minute threshold will guarantee additional health benefits.

  • Adults Above 18 Years of Age

All adults should strive to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every week. Alternatively, they can opt for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity weekly. Since this is the minimum requirement set, adults who engage in moderate-intensity physical activity of up to 300 minutes per week are more likely to enjoy additional health benefits.

Additionally, in order to maintain and develop musculoskeletal health, muscle-strengthening activities that involve major muscle groups should be done at least 2 or more days per week. On the other hand, older adults experiencing poor mobility should try their best to engage in physical activity for at least 3 or more days per week to enhance balance and prevent falls.

 Maintaining a regular exercise routine is hugely important especially during these tough times. However, keep in mind that you do not have to meet the threshold from the start. Starting small, for example with a 10-minute jog daily can help set the stage for momentum and things will get better as time goes by.