08.08.2003 Feature Article

Move for Health

Move for Health
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A GNA Feature By Benjamin Mensah

Accra, Aug. 7, GNA - The incidence of non-communicable diseases is rising in recent years. Indeed, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that by the year 2020, non-communicable diseases would be the cause of over 70 per cent of the global burden of disease and this should be a cause for concern.

The world would be saddled on a greater scale with diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, gout, cancers and obesity. These diseases would be causing more deaths among the youth and all those in the productive age.

Ghana is now caught in the web of both non-communicable and communicable diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS and this poses a big health threat.

The combination of non-communicable with the already heavy load of communicable diseases in a developing country like Ghana is heavy enough to decimate national efforts, productivity and economic gains in no time.

The importance of a clean environment, good food and healthy lifestyles cannot be over-emphasised in the prevention of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Lifestyle is a key ingredient to quality health. It is a big key to the control of non-communicable diseases.

Good lifestyle issues include exercise, balanced diet, flexible work schedule, no smoking habits and little or moderate alcohol drinking, leisure, recreational activities and stress-free living. They all play major contributing roles in promoting health and longevity and thereby foster national development.

Many of the factors that cause communicable diseases largely fall outside the scope of the individual's control. For non-communicable diseases, however, it is largely a matter of lifestyle for which individuals can exercise a substantial level of control.

The key for the control of such diseases is exercise. Exercise ranks highly in the lifestyle factor. Exercise refers to any physical activity - a move for health.

Physical activity is any body movement that results in the use of energy (burning calories). When you walk briskly, play, jog, swim, ride a bicycle, clean a house, dance, weed or climb stairs, you are moving for health.

Regular moderate physical activity is one of the easiest and surest ways to improve and maintain good health. It promotes healthy growth and development in children and young people.

It has the potential to prevent and control non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis - the brittle bone disease.

Exercise also increases one's energy levels, reduces stress, lowers cholesterol, reduces blood pressure and lowers risk of some cancers. It also enhances confidence and self-esteem, improves mobility and energy level of people with disability, reduces or prevents certain disabilities.

It can reduce the feeling of isolation and loneliness and improve physical and mental agility.

In sum, exercise can reduce the risk of dying prematurely, of dying from cardiovascular diseases or stroke, colon cancer, diabetes, lower back pain and depression.

To encourage people to exercise, to reap the vast health benefits, the Ghana Health Service (GHS), together with the World Health Organisation (WHO), has since last year initiated a Health Walk Programme.

Exercise formed the theme of last year's World Health Day celebration, which was "Move For Health".

Since its initiation by Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director-General of GHS, the event has been held regularly on a monthly basis and has spread to all the regions.

The Health Walk, which is supervised by the Ghana Health Service, is held on the third Saturday of every month, starting from major polyclinics throughout the country, through designated points. It is often accompanied by brass band, and one would see children, adults and old people walking and dancing, moving for health.

The music accompanying the walk, not only brings joy, but it is also good sound to announce to all Ghanaians to take one's health in one's own hands, and as well protect and promote it.

The Health Walk, as a physical activity, is to send a message to everybody that we can make the decision to improve upon our health. Keep fit clubs in the Accra-Tema Metropolis should be commended going on walks in the mornings at weekends, not only to burn the stored fats but also to warm them up for the weekend's activities.

Wouldn't it be a good idea if all families and communities got into such healthy activities, which when well organised, could foster togetherness and companionship?

The benefits would be far reaching. Mama, Papa, and the children; President, Minister, Member of Parliament, Assemblyman, Unit Committee Member, and all the community could use the end of a walk to discuss the improvement of the home, the neighbourhood and the community.

The houses and the buildings that have become drab and lacklustre because they were painted long ago, the grime on the walls, the choked gutters and the bushes could be attended to after such walks.

Move for health; balanced diet, healthy lifestyles, exercise and clean environments are paramount requisites for good health. Good health is a must. Move for good health to create wealth.

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