Putting fun into fitness

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With obesity a serious problem across the Caribbean, one man from St Kitts & Nevis is hoping to use a new exercise concept to enhance his country’s health and happiness

Obstacle races are on the up. More and more people are paying good money to plunge into puddles, clamber over walls and shimmy up ropes, all in the name of getting fit. Brands including Ninja Warrior and Tough Mudder are making millions. Obstacle racing is now the number one group fitness activity. An International Obstacle Course Racing Federation has even been created, with the aim of getting the sport into the 2024 Olympics.

David Walwyn, owner of the FIT Wellness Center on Nevis, thinks these events are a brilliant idea. And, inspired by the concept, he has introduced something similar to the Caribbean in an effort to promote physical activity, and make it a happier, healthier place to be.

“I want to provide the community the chance to improve their health and fitness through competitive family-oriented activities,” says David. “I hope these games will promote a deeper sense of cooperation and connectedness through team building.”

To that end, David has created a course of 18 obstacles on Bath Plains, in Charlestown, Nevis. Here, he holds a range of FIT Games competitions – there are competitions for teams of four (with at least one female), families (including kids), couples and individuals. The obstacles are extremely varied, from Trust Logs and Tyre Flips to Sled Walks and Tarzan Swings. This variety ensures different muscles are getting a workout, and keeps things interesting. Points are awarded for each element completed, but the main idea is to promote physical activity in a fun and exciting way.

Apart from the competitions, the FIT Games site also doubles as a fitness park that provides a way for the causal exerciser to walk in a secure, serene place. There are also weekly bootcamps for those who prefer a more challenging workout, guided by a trainer. It is suitable for everyone and every fitness level. The ultimate goal of the site is to create a complete fitness park; this will include an upscale fitness centre, to be built in 2017.

David launched FIT Games due to his concerns about the health of his fellow islanders: “Many are battling non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancers. These diseases are the highest cause of hospitalisation and death in Nevis.” Indeed, a 2016 report showed that diabetes is at epidemic levels on the island, with a rate of 20% – one in every five adults has diabetes. Over half of the population of Nevis is overweight, obesity being a major cause of diabetes.

“The reason this is so troubling,” adds David, “is because many of the risk-factors for these diseases can be eradicated by proper eating habits and physical activity. The body is much like a car, it has to move in order to function efficiently. An inactive body becomes less efficient. It gains weight, and becomes more susceptible to disease. Add in the wrong fuel – ie, a poor, unhealthy diet – and after a while the engine simply seizes up.”

Talking of which, reliance on cars, rather than making an effort to walk, is one cause of Nevis’s growing health problems. Even exercising just two to three times a week would make a huge difference. And, as David is keen to stress, exercise doesn’t have to be boring. “Gyms offer a secure, comfortable exercise environment and protection against the outside elements, but they’re not the only way. The purpose of the FIT Games is to promote physical activity in a fun way, so people don’t feel like it’s exercise. FIT Games provides the chance for people who don’t usually do much to see how good their bodies feel after doing some physical activity, when those endorphins are released. That feeling, we hope, will make them want more!”

David adds, “I believe humans feel better and function better in the great outdoors; it’s how our ancestors lived. Nothing beats being out in the fresh air.”

The FIT Games are for people of any physical level. It’s all about taking part, having fun and moving around. “Some of the obstacles might seem a bit intimidating at first,” says David, “but participants get plenty of support from their teammates. And afterwards, they’ll feel on top of the world!”

How obstacles can help YOU
The FIT Games aims to make exercise fun by taking it outdoors and making it into an adventure with friends. Also, the variety of obstacles means participants work a range of muscles, as well as their brain. Not on Nevis? Consider how you might bring this breadth of activities into your own life. Look for logs or low walls you can balance on, climb a tree or give a friend a piggyback ride!

Five tips for fitness

1 Find an activity that suits you
If you like it, you’re more likely to do it!
2 Embrace variety
Trying new things excites us, so don’t restrict yourself to the same old traditional types of exercise. Experiment, to find out what makes you happy, be it a long hike, a swim session or hula-hooping!
3 Be part of something
We love feeling connected to other people, and group exercising can give us that. Also, it makes you accountable to someone else if you bale out!
4 Be competitive
Friendly competition can increase your enjoyment of exercise – think how much more fun it is to play cricket than spend an hour on the treadmill. But healthy competition can be found in all activities, from running to fitness classes.
5  Conquer your mind
The right mindset is key to enjoying exercise. Stay positive. Focus on why you’re doing it and what you like about it. And remember to always be grateful for your body and its ability to move.

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