EXERCISING: Defining the new way of life under COVID

Posted on  August 28, 2020 

Categories:   Health

For the ordinary Ghanaian, the last of the things to worry about was spending time at the gym or home to exercise.  The onset of COVID 19 was therefore an opportunity to spend more time home with families especially after the government placed restrictions on movement to curb the spread of the disease.

But the pandemic was soon going to define their new way of life.

Days into the lock down in Ghana, the government advised all Ghanaians to consider eating locally produced foods and exercise regularly. That advice was in tandem with the WHO recommendations for people to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week as the lack of it could result in consequences for the immune system.

The announcement triggered many to start engaging in one form of exercise or another.

Nii Sowah is a journalist with an Accra based radio station.  Nii had always used his tight work schedules as an excuse not to exercise but that was not going to hold water any longer; he began jogging and taking walks even at the height of the movement restrictions.

“I read a lot about how exercising helps to boost the immune system of people and how that could also help to fight this deadly virus; of course, I do the normal walking in the neighborhood but once in a while I just do a bit of running… during COVID yes”

A friend to Nii Sowah, Mina also started exercising but stopped after a short while.

“I just did it for a short while then I stopped” she said.

Because consistently we were told that a strong immune system is what was needed to fight the virus, so I did it a couple of times, skipped a couple of times in the morning but I didn’t stay through”

She added, “It is just one of those things, you know sometimes you are told that oh, this is good, you start and then you stop”

Unlike Nii Sowah and Mina, Samira Kasim, at 33, says she felt a little overweight and needed to shed off some calories, so she decided to take every opportunity to ensure she was still in shape even during the restrictions.

She narrated how she had to shift from exercising four times a week to five and six times a week. She also took the opportunity to train some of her colleagues on social media and adopted online content for them.

At the Northern regional capital of Tamale, Mr Emmanuel Boahene, an Information Technology professional, who lives at Vittin, says "before the emergence of COVID-19 in the country, I used to join groups to go jogging in the mornings, especially during the weekends. However, these days, when I go to our meeting places in the mornings, nobody turns up for us to go jogging.”

He explained, “Jogging in groups is fun. It helps us to cover long distances, which is good for our fitness. However, it is not comfortable wearing a face mask while jogging. So, I prefer to stay home and do arm-pressing or lift some items to keep fit.”

Jogging in groups and playing football amongst other physical activities is often characterised by singing and shouting, which could produce COVID-19 infected droplets, the reason many are avoiding such activities in groups.

For Mr. Iddris Abubakar, a graduate, who lives at Asawaba, the pandemic has not altered his exercise regimen as he regularly does press-ups, squatting, and torso exercises in his house as well as plays football.

In the case of Kumasi, persons living in enclosed neighbourhoods and estates are now used to taking morning and evening strolls within their vicinity each day.

Mr. Samuel Nkansah, a businessman and bodybuilder, used to personally train more than twenty people before the pandemic at his gymnasium.

Sadly, he now has only four clients he trains.

He said his clients are afraid to frequent his gym to work-out. However, “some have started returning in the last few weeks,” the bodybuilder indicated.

Madam Brobbey at Ahinsan Estate a suburb of Kumasi says she runs every morning and makes sure she takes more than 1.5liters of water every day.

“In fact, if COVID vanishes even today, I’m still going to continue keeping fit. It has to some extent, helped me to adopt to some healthy ways of living” she added.

Exercises, according to Dr. Ekow Dadzie, head of clinical affairs at the Sanford World Clinic is what has kept many from recording high blood pressures during the pandemic.

“This is the first time I saw most of my hypertensive patients have a normal blood pressure recording, and it was an amazing thing”

“Because they said every morning, they started exercising, again we hardly had people complaining of bone pain, muscle pain because once again, they are saying that they wake up every morning and, in the evening, as well to exercise”

Interestingly, COVID -19 did not only have positive impacts on Ghanaians to exercise, but it also disrupted the lives of many who had regular sporty and physical activity.

Ghana was part of the many countries worldwide that canceled and put on hold all sporting activities like football, volley, weight lifting, and more when restrictions were imposed.

Many jobs were at risk, and that included gym trainers. The closure of gyms and fitness clubs, physiotherapy centers, and playgrounds was costing the people who had made it routine to stay fit.

They were stuck to their homes. Fitness trainer Mohammed Awal, says some his clients could no longer exercise regularly because they found it difficult to train on their own at home.

“Since the lockdown, I think we are heading towards four or five months now without exercising, you see some of our members find it difficult to train on their own.”

He added, “even though we have been calling them and advising them to exercise, it’s still difficult for them”

Indeed, the restrictions have caused a general disincentive for physical activities, as many people now stay glued to their TV sets and other devices and have unhealthy diets.

Sporting activities like aerobics and football among others were used to foster cooperation, and promote peaceful coexistence among the Ghanaian people and with COVID -19 restrictions being relaxed now, international bodies like the UN are advocating world leaders, including Ghana’s spearhead a safe reopening of sporting events and tournaments to be able to reap the immense benefits these activities bring to the general well being of people and the economy.


By Daniel Nii Lartey, Albert Futukpor and Florence Afriyie Mensah