Appealing to Sanity from a Makeshift Gym

Now that Coronavirus has pushed people around the world to dwell at home for months now, engagements that demand physical commotion have been highly restricted. Although there is relatively better movement in Ethiopia compared to countries in lock down, quite a sizable group of people have spent the past month at home. With some businesses such as gyms closed, those who have adhered to the stay at home recommendations need a makeshift venue for physical exercise. EBR’s Kiya Ali explores the various attempts by people to break sweat from the comfort of their living rooms.

The coronavirus seems to impacting every corner of life. In a pace that never seen before since the inception of the modern history, over three hundred thousand people have lost their lives in just three months, while another 3.3 million people were infected until the beginning of this month. Even more, to curb the spread of the outbreak, three billion people throughout the world were told to stay at home after authorities instructed citizens to apply physical distancing recommendations.

This being the reality across the globe, with the closure of fitness centers and other locations where sport activities are high, physical activity have become an important tool in order to remain calm and continue to protect health during this time. According to World Health Organization, people, during quarantine, are recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both.

Understanding these recommendations can be accomplished even at home without special equipment and with limited space; Khalid Ibrahim did not hesitated to do so right after being quarantined. Khalid is become aware of having diabetes type 2 eight years ago. Since then to control the glucose level in his blood, he used to go to the gym four times a week. However, being unable to do so did not prevent him from doing physical exercises.

“Working-out at home is as effective as a gym exercises,” he says. “Using videos and apps available online, I am doing exercising at home, which is a new culture but effective so far,” Khalid says. As the coronavirus kept gyms closed and people inside at their home, online fitness apps have become a primary choice of individuals across the world and people are increasingly watching videos to learn different home workouts. But not everyone is doing so.
Experts say staying at home for prolonged periods of time is pushing people develop sedentary behavior and become physically inactive. “This has a detrimental effect on the health, well-being and quality of life of individuals.

Especially for those people whose body is self adaptive of physical exercise, an interruption of activities pose a risk to their health and they would be exposed to different complications. For instance a person who is keeping his/her weight in a healthy range using an exercise may develop obesity if they stop exercising at this time,” Biruk Worku, an owner of Gast gym, says.

Adults and old aged people are not the only one who is negatively affected by low levels of physical activity. Children and youth are also vulnerably to obesity and depression during quarantine seasons. Children and youth aged between 5 and 17 should perform at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

To curb the spread of the virus, children are prohibited from going to school where they were physically active during break time and physical education classes, which are not being given on TV, in contrary to other subjects, as it is perceived to be not important by authorities. Coupled with having irregular sleep patterns, which is likely to happen while staying at home for days and months without outdoor activities, this is worrying and expose children and youth to obesity, according to Biruk.

With anxiety and isolation being common due to coronavirus fear, experts say this would have a profound impact on people’s health and is leading to epidemic of clinical depression. And it is also more stressful for people who are dealing with mental health complications. “The situation will risk the lives of individuals who are already dealing with mental health problems, like depression. Fear and apprehension about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotional effect,” says Atalay Alem, a professor of Psychiatry at Addis Ababa University. This is why experts advice exercising would help reduce depressions and anxiety that could potentially caused by the virus.

To protect oneself from physiological as well as mental health problems, home based physical activities are also recommended by experts to remain calm and continue to protect his/her health during such difficult time. “The activities can be done at home either with homemade materials or without special need for various equipments,” Biruk states.

To reduce the sedentary behaviors while staying at home in self-quarantine, the Ethiopian physical fitness association, for instance, has started mass sport activities, applying social distancing, at condominium houses in eight sub cities including Bole, Yeka, Kirkos and Nifasilk sub cities. “During this difficult time, everyone is contributing something and we believe that physical exercise experts can also do something for the community.

Based on this, we have decided to go to various condominium sites and guide the residents to perform physical exercise for 30 to 45 minutes without any payment. We have started it as a volunteer,” Netsanet Kasa, the Ethiopian physical Fitness Association President, explains. Although the association has started the activity as a volunteer without receiving any payment from anyone, now the Addis Ababa city administration promised to provide financial support. “Since we haven’t received the payment yet, I’m not sure about the exact amount. But the fund will help us to expand the project and include more places,” Netsanet says.

Netsanet and his team were working with Addis Ababa city administration on the monthly mass sport and the car free events that have been undergoing at Meskel Square for almost a year. Now as physical distancing and staying at home are the best possible ways that are advocated by WHO to prevent coronavirus, they come up with an innovative technique which they believe will benefit many people. “To make our voice audible, we use microphone and to make the activity entertaining we use speak and music,” Netsanet noted. Then everyone in the condominium compound can watch them from their home via a window and work the physical exercise with them. “Soon, we have a plan to start similar events at various real-estates,” he added.

There are also physical fitness professionals who are serving as a personal trainer. The payment is between ETB2000 and ETB3000 based on the financial capacity of their clients according to Biruk. “However, for people who cannot afford this, to avoid sedentary behavior, they can do simple exercises like dancing while performing household chores, walking to place nearby their house and working with instructors on TV programs,” Biruk advises. EBR

9th Year • May.16 – Jun.15 2020 • No. 86

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