Tanzania calls for national day of exercise to help combat obesity

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They were led by a marching band, but this army was wearing trainers – fighting the battle of the bulge. As more people move to the city and live less active lives.

Tanzanians are now heavier than ever and the is the government’s campaign to get them into shape. For generations, Tanzanians have suffered from malnutrition, from not having enough food to eat. That does still go on, but for many people here life is getting easier – and they are discovering the opposite problem, which also has long-term consequences.

Almost a third of adults are now obese, and are at more risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

“Many people now are waking up to the idea that they have to exercise. They understand what it means for their health.”

Even the Vice President put on her tracksuit and joined in and then she made a surprise announcement, ordering a national day of exercise, every month.

“Every second Saturday of every month, in every district and every region, people should walk just as we have walked today. This doesn’t prevent us from making other plans to combat health problems but every month, we will walk together.” Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice President of Tanzania

The Vice President also asked Tanzanians to eat more healthily, and to consider walking to and from work instead of driving.

“We are targeting everybody but particularly adults aged 15 to 49 years. And we are also targeting women in urban areas because we launched a study last week here in Dar es Salaam whereby 42% of urban women in Tanzania are overweight.” Said Ummy Mwalimu, Tanzanian Health Minister

And the problem is growing. One doctor predicts that rates of obesity could double in a generation.

“With development, we are seeing a lot of changes in the way people live. Sedentary life is coming so fast in these countries, where people used to work active, work hard, now life has changed and everything is on the table.” said Dr Tulizo Sanga, Cardiologist

The guest of honour was a former president of Tanzania, Ali Hassan Mwinyi. He said he still jogs three times a week, at ninety years old.So for everyone else, there are no excuses.

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