Six per cent of deaths worldwide are attributed to physical inactivity, which is said to be the principal cause of approximately 25 per cent of breast and colon cancers, 27 per cent of diabetes and 30 per cent of heart diseases.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also states that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.
It is against this background that the Ministry of Health is currently embarking on various initiatives that will promote healthy lifestyles among Jamaicans, in keeping with one of the most significant goals of the national development plan (Vision 2030), which speaks to the preservation and wellbeing of Jamaicans.
Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan, which aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. It is based on a comprehensive vision: “Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business."
Director of Health Promotion and Education in the Ministry of Health, Ms. Takese Foga, states that the annual observance of ‘Move for Health Day’, on May 10 is one such initiative that the Ministry utilises to encourage individuals to engage in physical activities.
Additionally, Ms. Foga notes that the observance of the day and the promotion of these activities, form part of the Health Ministry’s thrust to “strengthen and expand on-going initiatives through collaboration with schools, senior citizens associations and other stakeholders."
“Physical activity is a way of not just preventing, but controlling some of the diseases,” she said at a JIS ‘Think Tank’, on May 9.
Ms. Foga also notes that it is pertinent that Jamaicans experience a shift from the perception that physical activity is just about participating in sports to the ideal notion that it is a way of life.
According to the 2008 Jamaica Lifestyle Survey, more than 30 per cent of the Jamaican population is inactive, when compared to results obtained from studies done in 2000. The Lifestyle Survey also purports that only 33 per cent of Jamaicans are engaged in intensive physical activity.
Essentially, Jamaicans are at great risk of contracting many of the non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes due to high rates of physical inactivity and the adoption of unhealthy lifestyle practices.
Commenting on the importance of physical activity and the plethora of health benefits that can be derived, Senior Health Education Officer, Ms. Charmaine Plummer, states that no matter how old you are, physical activity will help to improve your quality of life.
Ms. Plummer said that there are several benefits to gain from being physically active, including the reduction of cholesterol as well as lowering the risk of developing hypertension and diabetes.
“Physical activity does not only help to reduce the risk of developing hypertension and diabetes, it helps to regulate the flow of blood in the body and there is a reduced tendency for blood clots to form in narrow blood vessels,” she explained.
“Every day is a day to move for health,” Ms. Plummer added, while pointing to the fact that exercise/physical activity aids in improving the wellbeing of individuals by decreasing the potentially harmful effects of stress, and promoting greater levels of concentration and productivity among students and employees.
In addition to the focus on May 10, there will also be health fairs, community sport days, workplace competitions and the hosting of health education seminars in many communities across Jamaica from May 10 to 31.
By Toni-Ann Russell, JIS PRO