Chillaxing our way to diabetes

We have been talking about diabetes type 2 and associated risk factors, namely large waistlines and alcohol – today, we tackle two issues that can lead to an increase in diabetes.


Number three is low activity levels


The World Health Organization classifies insufficient physical activity as less than 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. That is just 2 and a half hours of exercise a week.


Traditionally Africans have lived an extremely active life – travelling far to herd animals, fetch water, collect firewood, trade. Then they started working in offices, which for many necessitated a brisk walk to work every day – we remained active. ‘Research’ also meant taking a walk to talk to someone, there were no mobile phones, no Google.


Then, the middle class grew – drive to work  – which now  involves sitting at a desk with a computer. They sit in a jam as they drive home, get home totally knackered and sit in front of the TV – chillaxing.


But it’s not just those with cars – now we have tuktuk’s and motorbikes – so we can all, rich and not so rich, get merrily lazy now. When you come out of the matatu/bus, you no longer have to walk home, there is a motorbike at the vehicle door. In fact these guys make you feel really guilty if you don’t get a ride home…


Motorbikes on Kilifi highway

Motorbikes on Kilifi highway


‘Unaninyima riziki mama,’  they tell you – you are denying me a living mama


You look at that boy with a degree and high dreams who now ferries people on a motorbike for a living and you hop on – to the market stall.


He waits patiently for you – and will take you to the door of your house – you cook an easy meal and plonk yourself in front of a TV.


I grew up with that generation that remembers fondly the days with there was only one TV station (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation). Spending too much time on the TV was not possible. The station ‘opened’ late in the afternoon and ‘closed’ after a prayer at 10pm.


watching TV


Now you can watch a different station every day of the year of you choose to pay a bit more – and there is no end to exciting TV series. Leave out those cheap soaps that many men in Kenya would take a loan to have removed from scheduled TV programs – people have external drives with several weeks of viewing. It is not rare to hear someone say they are not leaving their house all weekend to watch a series back to back. And now we have Netflix!


There was a time ‘chilling’ meant total relaxation, but someone added relaxation to chilling = chillaxing. It conjures images of beer or wine (juice for those who read the article last week), feet on the table, a long TV series – extreme relaxation. Good in moderation – like almost everything in life….


There are no health benefits to being a couch potato – seriously, there are none.


Physical inactivity on its own (before obesity sets in) can start the changes in your body that lead to diabetes.


Walking home instead of taking that tuktuk or bodaboda would reduce your risk of diabetes – 10,000 steps a day is all the exercise you need.


Let’s get back to being a walking nation.


Number four is HIV and Antiviral therapy


HIV/AIDS and antiretroviral therapy (ARV) are associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes. The virus itself causes inflammation within body organs but the ARV also cause insulin resistance and decrease insulin secretion. If you are HIV positive, you have no option but to take your ARV’s because – not taking ARV’s will not reduce your risk of diabetes at all since the virus itself is a risk factor. It’s a really unfortunate happening but one of those that as a continent, we have to be prepared for as we have a large population who live with the virus.



More on diabetes next week…..