The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Overweight? Go Jogging

It is still surprising to see a Ugandan that jogs. But Monsignor Lawrence Kanyike has jogged since 1979.

What prompted his jogging and why has he, despite knee problems, been persistent in the practice?

"I was extremely obese and Dr Veronica Cotter, who was close to me - I used to take my parents to her for treatment - told me: 'If you don't lose weight, I will give you a death certificate in four years'," Kanyike says.

"I was so scared. I asked myself, what do I do? I have a big appetite. I decided to go jogging with a friend," Kanyike recounts. He recalls that the first time he jogged, he could only go around the field once. "After four years, I could go over six times and had lost half my weight."

Kanyike, who weighed over 100kg at the time he started jogging, says he lost so much weight that the doctor advised him to put some back on. The weight loss resulted in a number of benefits.

"Life became lighter and easier. I could carry myself around easily. I also started feeling fresher. When you are heavy, you don't feel fresh," Kanyike, who looks like a real burden was lifted off him when he lost weight, says.

He reveals that being overweight had resulted in poor sleep, discomfort during work (he had to find means to fit his distended stomach behind his desk) and laboured breathing.

"Every three to four minutes, I used to [breathe out heavily]".

But all these dissipated with the weight loss. In addition, Kanyike's blood pressure dropped. Kanyike's story shows that there are benefits to be derived from jogging/running. We take a look at these benefits.

Burning fat:

The body uses glucose (carbohydrates) and fats as sources of energy for bodily activities. During running, according to www.about.com, the body uses either fat or carbohydrates as fuel, depending on the type of running one is engaging in.

If one engages in high-intensity running, one burns carbohydrates. However, if one engages in slow, long runs, one burns fat. Therefore, when one jogs at a relatively slow pace, then one burns fat.

Running and walking uphill, according to medicinenet.com have been shown as more effective methods of burning fat than cycling. Research has shown that fat burning is 28% higher in running and walking uphill than in cycling.

Losing weight:

Running, if it does not lead to burning more calories than a runner/jogger consumes, then there will be no weight loss. As earlier pointed out, high-intensity running aids calorie burning. When this is coupled with consumption of less calories, or if it results in burning of more calories than was consumed, then it aids weight loss.

A smaller body weight not only improves one's self-image, but it has health (psychological and physical) benefits as Kanyike's story showed.

Physical fitness:

Running improves aerobic fitness - ability of the heart to pump more efficiently and the muscles to use oxygen more efficiently.

Health benefits:

The above benefits hint at the fact that running/jogging improves on overall health. It has psychological benefits like reducing stress and improving on a person's self-esteem.

Running/jogging has also been used in the treatment of clinical depression (because it gives patients something, other than their problems to focus on and induces the production of endorphins, the body's feel-good hormones) and it can be used to control insomnia (it tires and relaxes the runner).

Physical health benefits of running/jogging include the improvement of heart health. It does this by lowering body fat, lowering blood pressure and increasing on HDL cholesterol (good fat).

Negative effects:

While running/jogging results in the enjoyment of certain benefits, it may result in injury.

"The most predominant site of injury," according to medicinenet.com, "is the knee". Men, because of their bigger body weight, are more likely to suffer knee injury.

Running shoes haven't been shown to prevent injury but Richard Weil, a physiologist, recommends them because they provide support in midsole and padding and reinforcement in the heel. An individual's foot type and running style should determine the type of running shoe one gets.

How often should you exercise (running/jogging included)? Three to five days per week and between 20-60 minutes per day is recommended. It is important to note that jogging is not for everyone. If you suffer physical or psychiatric conditions, it is important to get a doctor's advice before embarking on jogging.

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