By Sam Ekpe
Scrolling through Instagram recently, I came across the profile of the new first lady of Anambra state Mrs Nonye Soludo. The First thing I observed was how much of an exercise and healthy living enthusiast she is, I also observed a pre and post weight loss photo of her over a ten-year period.
As obviously shown in the picture and described in the caption, she used to be overweight and had seen a complete transformation which she attributes to her healthy eating habits and a rigorous exercise regimen. As a health and fitness coach, I must say it’s almost like a breath of fresh air mainly because it seems in Nigeria, the main feature of being successful is being able to consume whatever one wants thereby leading to unhealthy side effects.
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This stereotype is so common that a number of Nigerians perceive looking healthy as a sign of stress and financial difficulty. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), two third of Nigerians are either overweight or obese. This is a serious challenge because obesity is the leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure.
Healthy citizens are the biggest asset to any nation. The state of our health affects our social and economic outcomes. From an economic standpoint, the health of a population has significant influence on its productivity. A workforce that remains fit, healthy and able to work longer hours can both increase tax revenue and decrease the cost of supporting an ageing society, where our inequalities undermine these benefits.
Physical inactivity and low diet quality are creating an unstainable burden of chronic disease. Fitness challenges such as obesity have truly reached epidemic proportions in Nigeria. Obesity is generally caused by eating too much and moving too little. If you consume high amounts of calories, but do not burn off the energy through exercise and physical activity, much of the surplus energy will be stored in the body as fat. The Government has a key role to play in promoting the health of the public and reducing the burden of cardiovascular diseases.
It would be a welcome development if the Anambra state government can play a more active role in influencing positive lifestyle behaviours, therefore helping to reduce disparities and chronic diseases. We hope that that Mrs Soludo would make it a priority, and take the necessary measures to educate Ndi Anambra, both young and old, on ways to incorporate regular exercise and healthy eating habits into their daily lives.
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The state government has the constitutional authority to enact, implement and enforce laws to protect the health of their citizens. In exercising this authority, the government can play a crucial role in healthcare funding and delivery of quality drugs and devices necessary for regulation and preventive education. Furthermore, they can take steps towards a healthy state through early and continuous health education, equal access to medical services that provide the most effective diagnosis and environmental policies in schools, work sites and communities that provide good nutrition as well as regular physical activity.
Additionally, the government can create an enabling environment for fitness enthusiasm through the establishment of parks for outdoor sports with access to healthy homegrown fruits and vegetables. This will not only support homegrown food production, but would also help to substitute the unhealthy carbonated drinks we consume while promoting health and fitness as the preferred way of life.
I have heard lived experiences of people below 60 years of age who have had heart attacks and other heart-related conditions, mainly due to their unhealthy lifestyle habits. I am hopeful that Mrs Soludo would make it a priority to continue to showcase her healthy lifestyle to Ndi Anambra to emphasize the benefits of healthy living.
Ekpe writes via