Time to move Fiji

Time to move Fiji

Last Thursday, the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services released the results of the 2011 STEPS Survey. Physical activity is one of the areas captured in this survey. It highlighted decreasing levels of physical activity with age, significantly less daily physical activity for women compared to men, along with high rates of obesity and waist circumferences in the sample population. These things are contributing to the poor health of the nation with women most at risk.

The latest survey results show that on a daily average, women are spending only half of the time that men do on physical activity. Of the population surveyed, 100% of the women had waist circumferences >80cm and 75% of men had waist circumferences >90cm which categorizes them with central obesity. Only 23.1% of women and 29.9% of men were within their normal weight range according to BMI classifications.   The amount of physical activity decreased with age across all areas, and around half of the surveyed participants indicated that they had no recreation (leisure) related physical activity.

What does all of this mean for us? Why should we care? The message is clear – Fijians need to move more for their health.

Physical inactivity is a major contributing factor to Fiji’s current non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis.   Heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes & cancers are the four leading NCDs. It is never too late to start moving either, even if you already have a disease.

According to Dr. Temica Mitchell, Peace Corps Volunteer, acting as Physical Activity Officer at the Ministry of Health’s Wellness Centre; “People do not fully realise the positive impact physical activity can have on managing health issues such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol as well as maintaining a healthy weight. It is important that people move more now in whatever way they can in order to help normalise abnormal blood work and better yet avoiding getting abnormal results in the first place”.

Fiji National Recommended Guidelines for Physical Activity from Ministry of Health, adopted from the World Health Organisation guidelines, are: children (5 – 18 years) should have 60 minutes of play almost everyday while adults (18 – 65 years) engage in 30 minutes of moderate exercise, at least 5 times per week.  Seniors (65+ yrs) are recommended to maintain the adult standard for as long as physically capable.

Lack of time and energy, work and family commitments and lack of facilities are common barriers to physical activity.

“Being physically active doesn’t have to be at the expense of other life commitments such as family and work. One of the great things is that it can be free, performed anywhere and done with others – instead of sitting around for tea/ coffee to catch up, try walking together as a group. Or, take the kids outside and be active as a family.”

There are many ways to increase your physical activity. Find any footpath and start walking. Put in an aerobics DVD and with your family in your front room get moving more. Join a class at the YMCA, or dance fitness at Civic Centre twice a week. Take part in monthly or quarterly community physical activity events such as public walks, triathlons, sports days. Join a community sporting or leisure physical activity group or even start your own. Many workplaces are doing classes together, too.

More information on physical activity can always be found at Ministry of Health’s Wellness Centre, or ask your local physiotherapists about how to get started.