Roselyne Sachiti – Features, Health & Society Editor
Two years ago, just before the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way people socialise in Zimbabwe and across the globe, various corporates held runs in commemoration of the breast cancer month, the tree planting day and other events.
Enthusiastic runners of all ages dotted pink, yellow and green in Harare’s streets and those of other cities like Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare and Gweru.
Some walked for a worthy cause of helping and showing solidarity with those affected by cancer, at the same time raising awareness of the chronic condition.
Others went on walkathons, spread over a number of days, all to remind Zimbabweans of the importance of preservation of the environment by planting trees.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, these runs and walkathons had for the past two years been reduced to virtual editions.
As part of observing Covid-19 protocols, social distancing, a non-pharmaceutical preventative method proven to reduce transmission of the novel virus, was recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Maintaining social distancing and not being able to interact in huge numbers to do physical runs and walkathons was no deterrent.
In the comfort of their homes, families dressed up in their running gear, grabbed their athletic shoes and joined the runs and walkathons at their own to cover the distance registered.
The runs and walkathons were a success as social media was abuzz with people posting the distance they had covered.
It was something they had never done before, yet it got the job done.
They had to do it to send out the important messages.
With our lifestyles contributing to an increase in cancer cases, the runs help to raise awareness.
Exercise is a critical element in ensuring a healthy lifestyle.
Research has shown that poor diet and not being active are key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk.
Being active can aid in reducing cancer risk by helping with weight control.
Exercise can also help improve hormone levels and the way a person’s immune system works.
Physical activity, too, helps reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
As such, lifestyle interventions may prevent a number of cancers.
According to the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe, at least one third of cancers are preventable.
The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe further confirms that a healthy lifestyle is helpful in reducing the risks of developing cancers.
It points out that tobacco use accounts for five million deaths every year, (22 percent of all cancer deaths).
“Reducing the rates of tobacco use will significantly decrease the global cancer burden,” the National Cancer Association advises.
According to the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe, alcohol use has been linked to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel, liver and breast.
“Overweight and obesity are strongly linked with an increased risk of bowel, breast, uterine, ovarian, pancreatic, oesophagus, kidney, and gallbladder cancers later in life,” it says.
Every October, which is breast cancer awareness month, Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers), as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, and in partnership with Island Hospice, has been hosting its annual Zimpapers Cancer Power Walk.
The Zimpapers Annual Cancer Power Walk has been in existence since 2016.
This year, the 6th Annual Cancer Power Walk will be held on November 13.
The good news is that the event will take place physically and in adherence with Covid-19 regulations.
So, all those wishing to take part can start looking for a comfortable pair of running shoes.
Zimpapers public relations and communications manager, Pauline Matanda, said the major objective of the campaign was to raise funds for Island Hospice’s cancer initiatives, while educating the public on the cancers that are most prevalent in this part of the world.
“Zimpapers takes this campaign, which also seeks to highlight the importance of keeping cancer patients comfortable and without pain (palliative care and hospice), as an opportunity to contribute to the health and well-being of the society, which it operates in,” she said.
Matanda added that the walk was viewed as a way of not only raising awareness about cancer, but also as a means of encouraging exercise and healthy lifestyles amongst the public.
“Lifestyle diseases including cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and others have become leading killers of people in the highly stressful environment we live in,” she explained.
She said the walk was expected to take place in six cities — Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Kariba, Gweru and Masvingo.
“There is proposal for virtual power walk, the way we did it last year in other areas worldwide where there is no scheduled walk,” she added.
Matanda further revealed that in Harare, the walk was expected to start at 5:30am until 10:30am.
“The walk will see participants gathering at Old Hararians Sports Club and start the 5km Power Walk following a mapped out route,” she said. “Due to Covid-19, this could be done in sessions: from 5:30am to 6:30am; 7am to 8am; 8:30am to 9:30am finishing with zumba on each session.
“Zimpapers is looking for sponsorship from all corporates, small to medium enterprises, organisations that are in health, cancer, medical aid service providers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), laboratory and medicals, etc.”
At the Zimpapers Annual Cancer Power Walk, Matanda added, free cancer screening, BP checks and HIV testing will be provided.
“This is to encourage a more holistic way of life which sees the public taking an interest in knowing their full health status,” she said. “These will take place while a Zumba instructor will be taking people through the session.”
Lifestyle diseases also come due to disharmonious relationship with the environment.
Their frequency of occurrence increases with industrialisation and modernisation or development index of a country.
To ensure environmental preservation, and a harmonious relationship, corporates like Nyaradzo Group through the Friends of the Environment (FOTE) has been holding its flagship annual event, the FOTE walkathon.
The walkathon helps raise awareness on the environment and promote sustainable use of natural resources.
Covid-19 also resulted in the FOTE walkathon also going virtual over the two years as the pandemic kept people socially distanced.
This year, the walkathon will be held both physically and virtually, according to FOTE administration manager, Patience Fusire.
She said Nyaradzo Group will hold its annual Walkathon from November 29 to December 4.
Having held their successful inaugural walkathon at the end of November 2010 that saw people walking from Gweru to Harare, FOTE realised that there wasn’t sufficient supply of tree saplings to meet the huge demand created by the awareness campaign.
FOTE then took a deliberate decision to create at least 100 new nurseries at schools throughout the country.
Fusire said they also intend to have the walkathons virtually as a way of observing Covid-19 regulations.
As more people get Covid-19 vaccines, there is hope that more physical events will return and people go back to their usual way of living.