The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is massive in Uganda like the rest of the world where it froze social interaction, economic activity and socialization. The only option to curb its spread is to impose rules as fitness freaks continue getting their unique experiences.
“While some people embarked on reading, writing and binging at home , for others wellness became a lifestyle,” says a social critic John Serumaga. “With the gyms closed they went jogging in Mandela Stadium, on highways, nature walking, cycling and mountain climbing.”
Come the partial lifting of the Lockdown and fitness freaks are returning in droves but not as it were. The Ministry of Health has put in place Structural Operation Procedures (SOPs) to guide management.
“Innovativeness is what has kept Sheraton Hotel on its business feet during these economically challenging times of the pandemic,” said the general manager Jean Philippe. “The numbers of our wellness activities are shooting up as they gain confidence in the measures in place to prevent infection.”
These include the number of people using the lift is limited to two at a time, seating is limited to three on a table and temperatures are read at the entrance besides the staff wearing masks. Disinfection of ablutions and the front office are done on a regular basis.
A casual tour of the establishment was a revelation of a swimming pool split into lanes. The gyms are also portioned like crime scenes using highly visible tape. Besides that the numbers of body builders are lower than it were.
“People now mind their health and the gym is the place to be to tone their muscle, battle obesity and avoid lifestyle related ailments like pressure,” said a wellness trainer Kenneth Mushabe . “The diseases are affecting even children.”
At Calabash gym located on Speke Apartment is the new normal exhibited on how resilient Kampalans are when it comes to life challenging circumstances. The trainer Masembe Rajab confides that the idea is to learn to live with COVID-19 as we did with HIV.
“We still have gym clients but under strict health rules,” says Masembe. “For example the mats are disinfected after being used by one client and stashed away for 24 hours. On top of that, we urge body builders and curvers to come along with their own towels from home.”
A tour of the facility was a revelation of the state of the art equipment, vigorous activity being carried out by clients whose bodies were punctuated with sweat beads as the gasped for breath. The profile included tourists, well-heeled residents of Kololo, Nakasero, Bugolobi and Bukoto.
Masembe says residents of Speke Apartments on Wampewo Avenue are free to go to sister gyms at Kabira Country Club and Speke Resort Munyonyo.
“They all observe the SOPs to the dot,” says Masembe. “Instead of over dependence on social media – we encourage people to mind their physical fitness which improves self-perception.”
They are entertained with music as they work out which enables physical and mental wellbeing. Doctor say exercise in gyms is instrumental in keeping body functions like: breathing, blood circulation, renal and immunity functioning.
“Regular physical activity,” summed up the Minister of Health Ruth Aceng. “While taking necessary precautions, is now considered effective in dealing with the health outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
True to her word researchers from Victoria University suggest that regular exercise might significantly reduce the risk of respiratory disease syndrome which is one of the main causes of death in COVID-19 patients.
Kampala City is punctuated with gyms but clients who mind their health consider how management is observing the SOPs put in place by the Ministry of Health.