Bringing people back to exercise

Published: 16 September 2011 16:23 CET

At 6am Kamal Dharmapriya stepped into a well-equipped gym and began his physical exercises for the day under the guidance of an instructor. Previously this is not how he started his days. However Kamal feels refreshed and energetic after his exertions. Later, Kamal’s wife joins him in at the newly built Red Cross Fitness Centre.

“I have noticed some changes in my body. I know that I lost some weight which came as a result of three months regular physical exercises at the fitness centre,” Kamal said in a joyful mood.

45-year-old Kamal Dharmapriya is a father of three and resident of Homagama division, 20km away from the capital city of Colombo. Until recently, he was not aware that the prevalence and incidents of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were on the rise in Sri Lanka and even was considered as the leading cause of death.

Kamal, and many people like him, ignored this fact. Lack of physical exercise, obesity, and consumption of excess starch, sugar, oil, tobacco, and alcohol had been identified as the main causes of non-communicable diseases in Sri Lanka according to the country’s health officials.

According to official data, non-communicable diseases have already become the largest contributor to the disease burden in Sri Lanka, accounting for 85 percent of ill health, disability, and premature death.

In this environment, the Colombo branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society with the financial assistance from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched a regional programme around the issue of non-communicable diseases.

There were several activities launched under this programme, including awareness campaigns and training targeted at school children and the general public. Most importantly, nearly 12 screening sessions were conducted in two target areas and nearly 1,200 individuals were screened. Kamal was among them.

After the screenings Kamal was concerned about his health and physical condition. He was directed to a newly setup Fitness Centre in the area built by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society with the financial support from the IFRC.

From that day forward Kamal started to engage in physical activities. “I go to the Fitness Center early in the morning daily and  work out for about 90 minutes under the supervision of the Instructor. At the end of the exercise I feel so strong both physically and mentally,” he said. “It allows me to get on with my routine work with a clear mind.”

Kamal said the benefits were so obvious that he would continue to exercise beyond the life of the programme. “As I have experienced in this short period of time, it also improves mental health, helps prevent depression, and promotes self-esteem. I have decided to continue with physical exercises at the fitness center to keep my body in good health.”