Monday, 3 February 2014

THE SHAPE OF THINGS: Are Jamaicans becoming fitter? A wellness expert weighs in

HOME STRETCH: Vigorous team events were among the highlights at the festival.

Given the time of year, among other factors, one shouldn't be surprised that Jamaicans are ostensibly giving greater consideration to their overall physical fitness and well-being. The local parks are catering to an increasing number of morning and evening joggers; the regular 10Ks draw mammoth crowds; the services of gym instructors and fitness experts like Juliet Cuthbert are in high demand; and who isn't drawing inspiration from the high-schoolers who have kicked off the athletics season with jaw-dropping performances at meets from Kingston to Montego Bay?

So one can't help but wonder: Are Jamaicans becoming fitter? In an interview with TALLAWAH, Dr. Ijah Williams, co-founder of the much-welcome Joie De Vie Wellness Festival, which had a successful inaugural staging at St. Catherine's Fort Clarence Beach on the weekend (under the theme "Healthier Choices Now"), insists that while there are encouraging signs of a healthy-lifestyle renaissance moving across the island, we still have further to go. 

"Jamaicans are becoming fitter. The culture of 5Ks and 10Ks is growing. People are jogging more," Williams says, "but we are a far way off from being a fit nation. If you look at our public figures [statistics], you'll see that we have work to do." 

Everywhere you turn, from magazines to newspapers to talk shows to even the stock market, you keep hearing the constant refrain: Get in shape! -- a call-to-action mantra that reflects the urgency of the rapidly evolving times in which we now live. "Fitness is an extremely critical part of wellness," explains Williams. "Physical fitness is one of the fundamental components, and certainly the fitter you are, the lower your risk of heart disease, cancers, all major diseases." 

To that end, the Joie De Vie Festival (two days of high-energy aerobics sessions, sports on the beach, swim challenge, a 10K run, etc.) has made it part of its mission to provide the kind of essential and enjoyable services that will help Jamaicans move to a higher level of healthy living. "While wellness is very broad and can be quite complex for the average person, when you look at it, you have to do it on an individual basis to try to meet specific needs," Williams says. "Take, for example, occupational wellness; helping persons match their personalities to their career choices, so they'll have more enjoyable careers and a more enjoyable work experience."

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