It is 6.30 am on a chilly Friday morning and I am at the Samaki round-about, right in the heart of the country’s second largest city, Mwanza.
The influx of boda-boda riders line-up waiting for customers while beggars wait for passers-by for alms. As I head towards the south of the city, roads seem to be narrower in relation to the activities taking place there.
Apart from the busy daladala conductors wooing passengers to board their buses, petty traders move up and down hunting for customers too. Then there is this group of people, both men and women in work-out gear, who are running up and down the sidewalks, exercising.
It really gets chaotic especially in the morning when people are rushing for work and other activities. Chaotic because it is the same sidewalks that both pedestrians and those exercising use.
The number of people engaging in workouts seems to be impressively increasing by the day, with people jogging both in the morning and evening.
What is this fitness craze all about?
Keeping fit, many will tell you. Others are trying to lose weight and some are following the doctor’s instructions.
Patrick Chacha, a city resident braves the morning cold to keep fit. He mostly gets up early in the morning when there is less movement to exercise. He says hitting the road after six makes it less conducive bearing in mind people’s movements. He says people exercise on the road because there are no specific areas for the purpose.
“We always encounter a lot of difficulties when exercising particularly in the morning when people are rushing to their work places,” Chacha laments.
He says fitness lovers have no choice but to run on the same roads pedestrians use given that a better part of Mwanza is hilly and therefore not conducive for exercise.
Emily Juma, 28, a resident who has to exercise as part of her medical requirement, echoes the same. She too wishes there were places conducive for exercising. Her doctor’s prescription requires her to run ten kilometers daily and is therefore forced to get up unusually early to have the space she needs.
“I was diagnosed with diabetes and the doctor advised me to make jogging part of my treatment. Exercising helps put the condition under control,” she tells me wiping off sweat from her forehead.
Emily says she is forced to wake up very early, sometimes as early as 4.30 am to run when there is less traffic and a few pedestrians.
Good reasons you should exercise
Health and fitness experts say that there are many jogging benefits, which is why it has remained so popular. It is however advised to consult a physician before embarking on any exercise programme.
Experts also advise on starting slowly when you decide to take it up. Start by taking brisk walks at first and slowly introduce jogging spurts as you build your endurance.
According to the Better Health website, benefits of jogging in the morning or evening are that one feels fresh, well-rested, and if running on an empty stomach, one could burn more fat.
It further says that afternoon jogs on the other hand can help you release accumulated stress from the day. Also, jogging helps prevent hypertension and heart disease. Aerobic fitness is linked to a better quality of life.
The benefit of jogging is that it can reduce ones’ risk of developing a host of diseases. Among these is heart disease since the cardiovascular system gets a great workout with this exercise.
On the website the experts quote that jogging helps to keep high blood pressure at bay. It activates the lowering of the ‘bad cholesterol’ in your blood as you do vigorous exercise such as jogging.
Known as the silent killer, hypertension can have long term effects on your body that could lead to life threatening conditions such as hemorrhaging, atherosclerosis and aneurysms if it is unchecked.
Apart from physical well-being, jogging also promotes mental and psychological well-being.”
According to Dr Murthy Venkateswaran at the Sanitas Hospitals, jogging and running, are both aerobic exercises which improve heart and lung capacity.
“Jogging also strengthens the immune system remarkably well. There is strong evidence that aerobic exercise helps promote the stimulation of macrophages or bacteria fighting cells and lymphocytes that fight infections through the immune system,” says Dr Venkateswaran.
A myth or reality?
But on the other hand, according to Dr Thomas Weria, a health expert at Shirati (KMT) Hospital in Lorya district Mara region says that jogging and running is a prolonged and a casual exercise, this step of physical exertion has been proven to lower ones’ testosterone level.
Apart from that, it affects performance in the bedroom. A lack of the hormone can be responsible for slow muscle recovery and an acute lack of energy.
He says after one has run for more than ten kilometers a day, it is very possible to lose the anxiety to do sex and even lack the desire to make love.
“Hormones help regulate our physiology and behaviour, and an imbalance can affect everything from respiration to digestion, metabolism and sensory perception,” he informs Your Health in an interview.
These are echoed by Hans Makoye, a surgeon at Bugando Medical Center, who says jogging for too long can lead to poor or lack of synovial fluid which is found on joints especially knees.
“Synovial is a membrane surrounding each joint and is responsible for the production of a thick, slippery fluid. The fluid helps ensure smooth and easy body movement, if it does not exist then one will neither have the ability to jog nor run. And it is mainly caused by jogging excertion,” he cautions.
Resident echo challenges
Mwanza has very few sport centres where one can do this kind of an exercise. For instance, Butimba Teachers Training College based at Mkuyuni ward in Nyamagana district, has a ground that is always busy with various activities including first league division matches.
The ground has a capacity of accommodating 200 to 250 people at a go and its surface contains seasonal grass that at times dries up during sunny season.
Due to its unique form, many parts are hilly thus making it hard for some activities to take place, such as jogging or running in particular sites and thus many are forced to run on highways, an essence that puts their lives at risk.
Speaking to the regional sports representative, he said that the government was aware of the inadequate spaces and thus worked on Nyamagana sports ground, despite that it does not accommodate the number of events taking place within the city.
“Apart from CCM Kirumba, Butimba and Nyamagana, we have a plan of setting up other spaces. We are only waiting for the launch of a master plan and go on with the plans,” he concluded.
On his side, Zephaniah Mahiri, a marathon trainee based in Mwanza shares his views with Your Health. He says Mwanza is a city that needed to have modern and reliable infrastructure. He referred to the city plan that could involve such fields.
Zephaniah says the tendency of doing or participating in jogging or running makes one’s health fabulous, as a role model to many he says it is very rare for a person committing himself of herself to jog or walk.
“As I said earlier, jogging or physical exercise is a routine to those who know about its advantages. The perception form few people that prolonged physical exercising leads to impotence, is a mare myth,” he says.
However, Dominic Mwera, a daily jogger on Mwanza-Shinyanga highway, says there are minimal number of roads especially highways due to the availability of the Lake and as well as the rocks formation.
“An hour cannot pass before hearing of sirens directing people and road users in general to pave way for either police to pass while escorting suspects and criminals to and from the courts or cash being transported,” he says.
This makes it hard for joggers to continue running as they may cause tension.
“Apart from that, some places are polluted by the industry-related activities and hence can affect one’s health, we therefore avoid them,” he concluded.