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Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Hon Christopher Tufton, participates in an exercise session at the National Baking Company's Half-Way Tree Road offices in Kingston.
Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson

Jamaicans are being encouraged to use the additional time that is being spent at home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Senior Health Education Officer at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Charmaine Plummer, tells JIS News that regular physical activity, which is movement that allows the body to utilise energy, is important for physical and mental wellness.

“It can help to burn extra calories, reduce stress, strengthen the body and improve the way persons look and feel about themselves,” she says.

She notes that physical activity is also vital to building the immune system, which can help to lessen the effect of COVID-19 if contracted.

Miss Plummer notes that many persons convince themselves that they do not have enough time for physical activity and find excuses to avoid exercise.

“Some say it is too hard, others said they are too busy and there are even others who say they need a friend to do activities with,” she says.

She notes, however. that “it is easier than you think. You do not need to go to a gym or trainer. Your environment is your gym, your mind is your membership, your body is the equipment, creativity is your fuel and every day is your target,” she points out.

Miss Plummer offers advice on ways to make doing exercise more manageable for both adults and children.

For children, she says that those in the three to five-year-old group should have at least 60 minutes of structured activity and several hours of free play daily.

“For older children and young people in the six to 17 age range, at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity should be undertaken at least five days per week. They should do a combination of muscle and bone strengthening activities at least three days per week as a part of the 60 minutes,” she advises.

Miss Plummer says that children should be encouraged to help parents carry groceries, as this, along with squats, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, weightlifting, stair climbing and bike riding are good examples of muscle-strengthening activities.

She suggests jumping, skipping, running, walking, dancing and hop scotch for bone strengthening.

For adults, Miss Plummer recommends 30 minutes of exercise, five days per week to gain some health benefits.

For persons, who are desirous of losing weight, she says that at least 60 minutes of exercise, five days per week should be sufficient and for persons wishing to lose and maintain, a minimum of 90 minutes per day for five days a week is advised.

Miss Plummer suggests breaking down a 30-minute session into three, continuous 10-minute segments to make it more manageable.

“Adults 65 years and above should do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days per week or at least 25 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity at least three days per week,” she says, adding that aerobic activity is best done using the 10-minute session method.

To achieve additional health benefits, they can do moderate-intensity activity for 60 minutes, five days per week, or engage in 30 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity five days per week or a combination of both.

Miss Plummer urges caution for persons with medical conditions or poor mobility. “They should perform physical activity that they can do based on their abilities and do activities that will improve balance and prevent falls, at three days per week,” she advises.

She adds that if injury, disability, illness, or weight problems limit a person’s ability to undertake regular activities, using the following tips will yield similar results: warm up with stretch, arm swings, and shoulder rolls; cycle on a stationary bike; and use a portable pedal exercise device while comfortably seated, watching television, listening music or reading.

She further recommends that persons walk as briskly as possible in an open space in the yard or house; attach resistance bands to heavy furniture, doorknob or chair for pull-down exercises to strengthen shoulder and arms; hold weights in both hands and air-punch sitting up straight; run or jog with a family member or friend if unable to do so alone; use a rail (metal or rope) as guide to jog or run; run on the spot for a prescribed period twice per day; and persons who are dependent on the use of an assistive device or equipment, are advised to be extra careful by practising proper hand hygiene and cleaning the surface and equipment before and after use.

Miss Plummer says that when engaging in an exercise routine, people should ensure that they have adequate time for the particular activity. She says that all workouts should start with a warm-up and persons should do different types of activity to make it interesting.

Other tips for a successful workout are to drink water before, during and after the session; wear appropriate clothing; use music to make the workout fun; work out with a partner if possible; end with a full body stretch routine; and maintain social distancing.

Regular physical activity plays a vital role in the management and reduction of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCD).

According to the Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), physical activity can reduce global mortality by at least six per cent, reduce ischemic heart disease by 30 per cent, diabetes by 27 per cent and breast and colon cancers by up to 25 per cent.

It also contributes to the prevention of overweight and obesity, improved mental health, delay in the onset of dementia and improved overall quality of life.

The Jamaica Health and Lifestyle, Survey III 2016-2017 showed that 82 per cent of Jamaicans engaged in low physical activity; 16 per cent in moderate activity (minimum WHO recommendation) and only two per cent engaged in high activity.

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