Zambia President jogs to make good decisions

Monday April 29 2019

Zambia President Edgar Chagwa Lungu (L), former

Zambia President Edgar Chagwa Lungu (L), former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Health Minister Dr. Chitalu Chilufya during a morning run in Lusaka on October 20, 2018. President Lungu is encouraging Zambians to keep fit to avoid being 'restless and stressed'. PHOTO | COURTESY | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MICHAEL CHAWE
By MICHAEL CHAWE
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Soon after he became President after his predecessor Michael Sata Zambia President Edgar Lungu's health became a subject of heated debates across the country.

At the Women's Day celebrations in 2015, he collapsed due to what the presidency called a bowel condition.

He was treated and his health has not been in the public limelight since.

That is in contrast to his public morning jogs which the Zambia Athletics Association says are helping energise a culture of healthy living among the people he leads have.

In one of the videos capturing a typical morning jog by the President, Mr Lungu, 62, enters from his yard and greets the assembled participants.

"Good morning, are you ready for the jog?” The response from the assorted group of bank executives, security chiefs, cabinet ministers and other notables is positive:

"Yes, we are!” "I am ready for you as well."

Amid the exercise one participant ventures on why the president jogs
“Depending on your age and ability, you can do something to work out your body. Make it fit - it’s a good feeling.”

“When you’re fit and feeling good, you’re bound to make good decisions…but the opposite is that you’re restless and stressed,” he said.
One of his aides told Africa Review that he takes 10 kilometres minimum or more in the weekly session depending on the ability of his “jogging guests.”

He was late last year joined for a jog by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who was on a visit to Zambia. Former Zambia football icon Kalusha Bwalya also joined him for the work out on April 13.

His passion for active engagement in sport, not spectating, is rare among African leaders who prefer sophisticated means of weight loss and detoxing such as saunas and massage. Others also go for medical solutions.

While the exploits of Liberian President George Weah, a former world footballer of the year, on the football field are storied; Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza's love for that game is well publicised.

Before President Lungu, Burkina Faso’s former President Thomas Sankara ran along the streets as ordinary people cheered “their president keeping fit.”

Former Kenya President Mwai Kibaki was an ardent golfer in his prime while Deputy President William Ruto has shown near-elite performance levels in the marathons.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's wife Margaret has done the London half marathon for charity as the President, a keen follower of Formula One racing, waited to congratulate her on the finish line.

In Cameroon, President Paul Biya's love for golf and cycling is believed to have motivated the construction of the two golf courses in the country - Likomba Golf Club in Tiko and the Yaounde Golf Club.
Back to Mr Lungu, in 2012 he took part in the Zambia Athletics Association-ZAAA sponsored Inter Company Relay covering 10 kilometres.

ZAAA chief Elias Mpondela said Mr Lungu was elevating the status of the sport.

“…we are overjoyed. He’s energising our sport and we hope many Zambians can join in so that by acting together we can win and live healthy as a country,” Mpondela said.

After graduating with an LLB in 1981 from the University of Zambia,President Lungu joined the law firm of Andre Masiye and Company in Lusaka.

He subsequently underwent military officer training at Miltez in Kabwe under Zambia National Service (ZNS). He then returned to practising law.

His hobby has rubbed off other leaders well including former main opposition UPND vice president Geoffrey Mwamba, who has since rejoined the governing Patriotic Front party.

Mr Mwamba told a local publication in March that he had lost 32 kilogrammes in 18 months to 115 kilogrammes from 147 kilogrammes with the help of a diet and advise from his doctor.

"The doctor told me that I should be fit, that is why you have noticed that I go to the gym at least five times in a week just to keep fit,” he said.
The World Health Organisation has endorsed regular exercise as a means of achieving long-term health.

Medical studies show appropriate physical activity helps prevent and manage cardiovascular diseases among others.

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