Is Exercising Culturally Appropriate for Africans

More than 1.4bn adults are putting themselves at heightened risk of deadly diseases by not getting enough exercise, doctors are warning, with global activity levels virtually unchanged in nearly two decades. A new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that a third of women and a quarter of men worldwide are in the firing line for killer conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer unless they up their physical activity. “Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for non communicable diseases, and has a negative effect on mental health and quality of life,” said the study published Wednesday by The Lancet Global Health Journal. The WHO recommends each adult do at least 150 minutes “moderate-intensity” exercise — such as brisk walking, swimming or gentle cycling — each week, or 75 minutes “vigorous-intensity” activity — such as running or team sports.

History of Physical Activity and Exercise in African Countries

African community possesses a rich tradition of culture, sport, history and social institutions as seen in different countries. Traditional games, plays, dances and arts were used for the purposes of socialization, initiation, ceremonies, recreation, and education, among others. In addition, physical prowess was traditionally essential for the ability to perform practices such as hunting, gathering, inter- tribal conflicts, wrestling sports and pastoral activities.
With reference to old literature like, the Basden study of the Ibos of Nigeria, shooting, dancing, wrestling and swimming was the most common for adults with less wrestling and shooting for women.

African Women and Physical Activity and Exercise

Traditionally, African women have been physically active with regard to the roles they play in the society. Some of these roles have been participating in the village dance ceremonies, farming, fetching water and chopping wood. According to the Basden study of the Ibos of Nigeria mentioned before, women were actively involved in dance ceremonies, mostly for religious functions to express joy and thanksgiving.
Women have not only continued to perform these traditional physical activities, but are now involved in national and international sports despite the many challenges that have previously faced women sports in Africa. Fears of harassment, violence, intimidation and the domestic and reproductive responsibilities lead to low priority in sport among the women. This has gradually changed and women can engage in various forms of sports, including football, netball, volleyball, athletics, among others.

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