By Lemuel Chekai
While on average, Zimbabweans are little known for their amusement with routine workouts, COVID-19 lockdowns and the need for some form of physical activity has seen a steady rise in people who are now doing workouts.
Although the tight national lockdown has been relaxed, morning outdoor walking and jogging sessions have become popular in Harare’s highly populated townships and low density suburbs. What started as a quick escape from boredom and mental strain, is fast establishing itself as a healthy culture.
Indoor exercises such as yoga, squats and other lighter drills are also becoming popular as seen by many video posts on social media platforms.
Forty-five year-old Lincoln Kumbawa of Waterfalls was not a fan of physical exercises until Covid-19 lockdowns, which began a year ago, forced him to learning the physical and mental benefits of these routines.
Today, it has become his routine to escaping the mental strain.
“I wake up at 5.30 am everyday and go for a 45-minute jog from Induna Park to Derbyshire and back,” he said.
“I never had time to do this and couldn’t really understand how other people could really enjoy doing routine workouts. But since the lockdown started, I began doing it to escape boredom and I haven’t stopped,” he said.
“I grew to enjoy the physical and mental stretch, the challenge and the satisfaction once I’m done. It gives me a different and much more positive attitude towards life in difficult periods,” he added.
Kumbawa is not alone in his newly found pastime. Together with three other colleagues from his neighbourhood they undertake routine physical training sessions every two days at dusk in an open space in Kumbawa’s home backyard.
Health experts say working out helps to boost mental health and positive attitudes, and it is particularly helpful during the hard times of the Covid-19 pandemic where many people are struggling with stressful livelihood issues.
“Even if it’s just jumps in your bedroom or shaking your body parts like you are in the warm up section of an acting class, exercise will help get the adrenaline out of your system and channel the panic elsewhere,” psychologist, Dr Kudakwashe Muchena was quoted in the Health Times.
Yet, for some like Vusumuzi Kadzutu, a semi- professional runner, his love for exercises is based on avoiding obesity, a condition highly believed to have affected most people during lockdown due to congested eating habits and lack of activity.
“It helps me maintain a good body shape especially during Covid-19 where most people spent all day glued to their televisions while consuming lots of food. Exercises will burn those calories,” Kadzutu said.
According to data released in March 2020 by Garmin, makers of workout tracking watches, walking tagged workout globally, surged 40 percent year-on-year as lockdown took effect.
Indoor cardio workout tracking also grew, tracking 150 percent up year-on-year.
Locally, signs that people are taking up exercises are telling on various social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.
More and more people are posting videos of themselves doing various routine exercises in homes and inviting others for a challenge.
Information available on social media platforms and the availability of workout applications have also made it easier for people to copy drills without the need or help of trainers.