The other day I made a joke on social media that “people who go to saunas to lose weight are not ready for KFC.”
As people kept laughing at it and commenting, I also took time to reprocess it in my head.
I am in the business of getting people to move and have an improved quality of life through fitness; I should not be making empty jokes on the same community I am contributing to, in providing sustainable wellbeing. Instead, I should be proposing solutions.
In the rise of fast foods and non-calorie-consuming mobility solutions, we can all agree that there will be consequences and we will have to bear the cost.
Just like in any other fast-growing economy, many people are spending their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health.
But I don’t think we are that naïve, are we?
At least four big fast food businesses opened their doors in Kigali in 2019 alone.
Fast foods are not a luxury we were left behind on.
The global perspective tells us that It is something the world wants to get rid of.
Dear Rwandans, believe me, you did not miss anything.
We are what we eat, and risks of an unhealthy diet affect people across a range of demographics, including age, gender, and economic status.
Are we jumping off an airplane without a parachute?
How much do we know about the dangers of fast foods and unhealthy eating?
These big fast food chains that everyone is excited about originate from a country where 71% of the population are overweight or obese—not 66%, which was reported 5 years ago, according to the article “The Hidden Dangers of Fast and Processed Food” published in the American journal of lifestyle medicine in April 2018.
That means a staggering 100 million people in America are obese. Today, eating processed foods and fast foods kills more people prematurely than cigarette smoking.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, obesity and chronic respiratory diseases, represent a global threat to human health and human development in today’s world.
These five NCDs are the world’s leading causes of death and kill an estimated 35 million people each year – 60% of all deaths globally – with 80% in low- and middle-income countries.
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that total deaths from NCDs will increase by further 17% over the next 10 years.
NCDs are related to the interaction of various genetic, environmental and especially lifestyle factors, including smoking, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diets and lack of physical inactivity.
We are the country of tremendous strides in environment protection, we care about a green planet and banned plastic, but I can guarantee you that we will not be around to enjoy all that if nothing is done in terms of adopting a healthy lifestyle to ensure longevity.
As a country, we need to make substantial investments to prepare for what we know is coming.
More and more people are living their lives eating unhealthy, not moving and pursuing unhealthy activities.
At the end, the health care cost will become so high to a point where the average Rwandans will have to choose between children’s school fees or insulin.
I know that health is not valued until sickness comes, but we should not wait to get sick to realize how important it is to live healthy.
In Rwanda, we have much more clinics and hospitals than wellness facilities, but I have hope that the fitness- and prevention market will outgrow the health care market one day.
In order for this to happen, we need to invest in health preventively using fitness as the best prophylactic than seeking for top treatments.
The car-free day is working, but it is not enough.
So much more can be done at the policy level in education and planning.
Having said that:
1. I challenge the City of Kigali to work with the private sector to enable outdoor fitness stations and running tracks in already planned public parks and gardens.
2. I also challenge the Ministry of Health to add fitness equipment to the list of health commodities eligible for tax exemption. In a tsunami of lifestyle diseases, the gym is a life vest. We have the choice now to consider gyms as health centers and eliminate the import tax where necessary, so that people can be incentivized to invest in fitness and other preventive routes.
3. I challenge the Ministry of Education to add a basic exercise physiology course in secondary schools’ curriculum so that kids can learn about energy consumption and to truly go in depth with nutritional education highlighting calorie based food quantification and Macro counting.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin.
I’m just another Kigalian who pretends to know what the whole country needs.
Happy New Year!
Ivan Munye runs a gym and he’s a professional fitness coach. His views are his and do not represent our editorial policy.