Keeping fit during the lockdown

MEDINAT KANABE chronicles the different ways people can keep fit and maintain their body size during the lockdown

For many, the past four weeks of lockdown may jolly well be time to be laid-back, eat, sleep, gist and generally lounge before the TV, but experts have been warning against such indulgence, as it may turn out counterproductive.

CEO, Inshape Fitness Solution, Joel Uzamere who spoke to The Nation said there are many physiological changes that can occur in the human body when it suddenly stops exercising or doing “physical activities”.

“When you exercise regularly, one of the benefit is that it increases the hearts ability to efficiently pump blood around your body, the blood vessels ability to transport it, and the increases in capillaries, which results in the increase of size and number of mitochondria (where the processes of respiration and energy production occur).

“All these lead to a more efficient use of nutrients and oxygen in our body, and this is just the cardiovascular aspect. There is also immense benefits in muscle strength, flexibility, stamina, balance, etc.

“So, if you have not been involved in any form of exercise during this lock-down, your body will go through what we call “deconditioning” or detraining.” This is basically a regression from all the benefits discussed above. The reconditioning process is determined by how long the person has been training before they stopped.”

For people who reside in small rooming houses, Uzamere said, “Space is not an excuse. As long as you can take three steps forward or backward, you are good to go. Body-weight exercises can be done by anyone anywhere anytime. But get a certified fitness trainer to develop a training programme for you, because exercise is about prescription not subscription. Your workout should have this sequence: Warm-up , Main workout and Cool-down.”

For those who live in accommodations with space, he said it is advisable to always get a certified trainer that can perform cardiovascular, strength and flexibility assessment, not just body composition checks.

“This will help the trainer to properly prescribe the type of exercise, the intensity of the exercise, the frequency of the exercise and the times the exercises will be done. Generally, safe exercises will be walking, playing a sport like table tennis or soccer and for those that can, swimming is most excellent.”

Uzamere, who is also known as a master trainer and tutor, said he  hasn’t received any new membership during this lockdown because most people know that the Covid-19 pandemic is real and are taking all necessary precautions, especially avoiding gatherings.

“We also had to shut down a week before the federal government’s order, because we recognised that the virus can spread faster when people use the same equipment or item at different times.”

He advised those who feel the lockdown is a time to be lazy to get up and get in shape.

Speaking on how people who have been exercising will fit back into work life, Uzamere, who is also CEO, Institute of Registered Exercise Professionals (IREP), said consistency is the name of the fitness game. “Having been exercising for a month now, I am sure you do not need anyone to tell you the benefits. Exercise can be done anytime of the day; it’s not the hours used but the effectiveness of the exercises done that makes all the difference.”

For those who have not been involved in any form of exercise, he said they would have accumulated excess fat, developed atrophy, joint stiffness, high blood pressure, which will make they ineffective at work and struggle psychologically.

On her part, Professor of Public Health Nutrition, Department of Home Science, Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Nigeria, Nsukka,  Nnam Ngozi said, when people are home, there is high tendency that their mind is relaxed and when the mind is relaxed, one tends to focus more on food because they are not so busy.

She said what they are advocating is healthy eating. “You can put yourself on a portion size; condition yourself to having a portion size and what should be more in the meal is a lot of vegetables.”

According to her, the beauty of vegetables are many, as they tend to provide bulk in ones tummy making the tummy feel full and avoid a lot of carbohydrates that will predispose one to obesity.

“You are also taking in nutrient that will keep you healthy because fruits and vegetables are good sources of Vitamin C, vitamin A, and have your bitter carotene that helps in building your immunity.

“They are all antioxidant vitamins that help the body stay strong and fight unwanted materials that can predispose one to becoming sick and unhealthy.”

Professor Nnam also said local vegetables like Spinach, pumpkin leaves etc give iron as well as other very useful vitamins.

“People should not just eat staples like rice, eba, yam, which are common in a lot of families. It is not complete without vegetables and fruits.

“I know that there is a lockdown but there are fruits that can be kept for long like watermelon.”

For snacks, the professor recommended fruits and vegetables like garden eggs, cucumber, carrot etc instead of pastries that are full of carbohydrates and starch.”

In addition to eating healthy, Prof Nnam said people should also get involved in exercise. “Now that we are home, we have time for exercises. You can have one hour exercise at home. There is the sit up and if you have a compound, you can walk round your compound many times. You can walk up the stairs many times or even stay in your room and do different forms of exercise. You have ample time now to get involved in one form of exercise or the other,” she said.

Managing diabetes, malaria in the absence of drugs

Asked what people should do in case they are not able to get malaria drugs or diabetes drugs during the lockdown she said healthy diet is key.

“For example somebody living with Type 2 diabetes can manage it with diet if they have a balance of different types of food, including vegetables. There is no particular vegetable as different vegetables contain a lot of dietary fiber and what is good about dietary fiber is that it has a way of filling your stomach and at the same time not being digested to give rise to sugar that will raise the blood sugar level and have a spike on the glucose level.”

She said we should add a lot of spinach, oha, waterleaf, pumpkin leaf, and other vegetables that are available this period and not take too much fruits like oranges at a time, but in moderation and at interval.

For those who are suffering from high blood pressure, she said they should reduce their intake of salt, adding that some nuts could be helpful. “I know that bitter kola is also good; there are some chemicals in bitter kola that is good for blood pressure. Then if you eat fruits that contains antioxidant mineral, they are very good in removing unwanted materials from the body.

“If you have a strong immunity, you will not be attacked by malaria, that’s why some people are not suffering why some others are always suffering from malaria parasite.”


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