Discovery Vitality has released the results of its latest Fittest City Index, which tracks the exercise habits of clients through the Discovery app.
According to the head of Vitality Wellness, Dr Craig Nossel, there are two main behaviours causing significant illness and deaths among South Africans: “One, how we drive. Two, how much we move.”
Nossel said the activity statistics in particular are quite staggering, adding that more than 5 million deaths globally could be avoided each year if people moved regularly, and more needs to be done to improve these statistics.
“We need to start by understanding this behaviour better and creating an environment that encourages healthier lifestyles,” he said.
Globally, one in four adults are not active enough and 10% of people die from causes related to a lack of physical activity. In South Africa, one in every two adults don’t move enough, Discovery said.
“That’s more than double the global average of 23% – making us one of the most inactive countries, below Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Malaysia,” it said.
Looking at South African cities, when it comes to physical activity, Cape Town comes out on top as the fittest city, with Johannesburg and Pretoria a close second and third place.
This is followed by Durban and Port Elizabeth, Discovery said.
Bloemfontein is at the back – 35% behind Cape Town’s lead and also tracked the lowest numbers of gym visits, steps and outdoor activities.
The Fittest City Index is based on physical activity data, which includes gym workouts, steps tracked and outdoor activities completed.
This measure of physical activity takes an annual view of all gym workouts in each city, relative to the population size. Durban takes a close second, just 2% short of taking the top spot, with Bloemfontein in last place – 30% behind winning city, Cape Town.
Accessibility to a gym facility plays a role in these numbers, Discovery noted.
Qualifying outdoor activities that inform this report include race events (running, swimming, cycling, canoeing, paddling, surf ski, multi-sport events and obstacle course races), parkrun and myrun.
After the Mother City, Joburg scores highest in this category – 8% away from first place.
Step tracking looks at qualifying step data (5,000 steps or more) from both fitness apps and devices over a year, relative to population size.
When it comes to this metric, Pretoria has stepped up to second place, hot on Cape Town’s heels, while Durban drops two rankings, to fourth place.
South Africans need to move more
Cardiologist and President-elect of the South African Heart Association, Dr David Jankelow, said that inactivity in South Africa has not improved since 2001.
“In addition to being important in disease prevention, movement is also key to healing,” he said.
“Cardiac patients, for example, used to be kept immobile for a long time. Today, we know that getting them active is probably the most important thing. Exercise is a surprisingly simple antidote to lifestyle-related illnesses. It may in fact be more important than medicine when it comes to sustaining good health.”
According to Discovery, it’s recommended that South Africans do the following to ensure they’re moving enough:
- Moderate-intensity exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day, at least five times a week (150 minutes a week)
- High-intensity exercise for 20 to 60 minutes a day, at least three times a week (75 minutes a week)
- Any combination of the two, totalling 225 minutes a week
- Strength and flexibility exercises for each major muscle group two to three days a week
- Neuromotor exercises (balance and agility) two to three days a week.