The risks of poor nutrition and lack of exercise

A healthy life demands proper nutrition as well as regular exercise. Both are key in the prevention of disease and also help improve overall mental and physical health.

Exercise is the physical exertion of the body, while proper nutrition is one that contains all food values in their right amount. Without exercise and the right nutrition, doctors say that your body is more prone to disease, infection, fatigue, and poor performance and ageing.

According to Dr Jean Damascene Gasherebuka, a physiotherapist at Oshen-King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, regular exercise is good for the body; it is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health.

He notes that regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, stress, and more. It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.

He adds that studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing. Exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Gasherebuka notes that keeping fit is also a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins, as well as releasing endorphins in the brain.

He says that physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so will your mind.

Dr Gerald Luzindana, a body wellness expert at Amazon Wellness Centre Gasabo, Remera, says that you shouldn’t sit in one place for too long as it might cause more mental and physical health complications than you realise, especially if the sitting posture is poor.

Luzindana says that when the body remains in a seated position for an extended period of time, the internal organs’ function slows down; as a result, your energy levels decrease. You may start feeling irritable, tired or aggravated.


Experts say that the kind of food you eat has a great impact on your body and skin. For instance; alcohol is dehydrating and bad for sleep, inadequate sleep is linked to wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, and reduced skin elasticity. Processed meats, like sausage and bacon, may have sulphites and other preservatives, which can trigger inflammation in the skin, and accelerate the appearance of ageing.

According to WebMD, eating too much sugar and processed carbohydrates can lead to damage of your skin’s collagen (which keeps your skin springy and resists wrinkles). Eat protein since your skin is essentially made of protein, so if you don’t get enough healthy protein in your diet, it will reflect on your skin.

It is also noted on WebMD that tomatoes, grapefruit, guavas, red cabbage should not miss out on your plate of food. They are rich in a nutrient called lycopene. Dietary intake of tomatoes and tomato products containing lycopene has been shown to be associated with a decreased risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, try feeding on lentils and beans as they are good sources of protein and are loaded with fibre and nutrients.


“Ageing is a normal process of the body systems characterised by a decline or deterioration in overall physiological functions with cardiovascular and pulmonary changes, changes in musculoskeletal system, and neuromuscular system,” Gasherebuka says.

He adds that we also notice changes in sensory organs, hormonal and genitourinary changes, integumentary changes and nutritional changes. With ageing, there is an increase in chronic diseases (NCDs are among them).

Gasherebuka explains that 23 per cent of deaths from leading chronic diseases are from osteoarthritis, cardiovascular diseases, sarcopenia, stroke, diabetes, depression, among others. Lack of physical exercises increases the rate and the occurrence of the above diseases.

Dr Samuel Kagali, the chief consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Dream Medical Centre Hospital, Kicukiro, says that generally, exercise or physical activity increase blood supply to the body’s organ systems, including the brain. It has been proven that those who are physically active delay dementia and other degenerative diseases.

He adds that exercise also improves memory and general alertness; any part of the body that is not active generally undergoes hypotrophy, they become small and weak and the old cells are not replaced, which leads to early ageing.

Participants during an exercise routine on car free day in Kigali. Without exercise and the right nutrition, doctors say that your body is more prone to disease, infection, and fatigue.P/Net photo


Dr Kagali says that any moderate intensity exercise can help to maintain good cardiopulmonary function, slow down the loss of skeletal muscle mass and improve muscle endurance, and motor coordination.

He also says that the best sports for ageing are swimming, cycling and walking — done regularly. Research shows regular 30 minutes of walking five days a week can be enough to slow down the process of ageing). Most counselled sports for elderly people is hydrotherapy with warm water.

Luzindana advises that regular physical activity is the best thing one can offer their body, as it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Though, each individual has specific exercise requirements and each body state calls for independent physical wellness.

He adds that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate aerobic activity can put you at a lower risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

Regular physical activity can diminish your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a condition in which you have some combination of too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure), lowers HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, or high blood sugar, he adds.

Research shows that physically active people have a lower risk of lung and colon cancer than people who are not active, and physically active women have a lesser risk of breast cancer than those who are not active.

Luzindana notes that long-term benefits of daily exercises are; improved blood glucose control, weight maintenance, lowered blood pressure, stronger bones and muscles, lower risk of diabetes complications such as eye, heart, and kidney disease and improved quality of life.

Kagali says that many of the non-communicable diseases to a greater percentage can be controlled or prevented if people start being physically active.

He also says that lack of physical activity leads to easy attack of diseases like diabetes, degenerative diseases, obesities, and sexually dysfunctional diseases. Physical exercise also improves the immune system, hence keeping you healthy and young.


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